Last week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced resolution of a housing discrimination case from California for just under $11,000. The complainants are a family with a child who has a respiratory disability. The issues involved a request from the family to move to a unit away from neighbors who were heavy smokers. Disability, of course, is one of the protected classes under our federal Fair Housing Act.
Here, as a reasonable accommodation (which is a change in a rule, practice, or policy needed because of a disability) the residents sought to relocate to a different unit.
Factually, the case came to HUD after the mother made requests of her management company to switch units for the health of her son as neighbors who smoked lived near their home. And the smoking aggravated her son’s disability. Now, the agreement does not tell me if there were other available units or if the leasing office tried alternate solutions. It is clear that the mother was unsatisfied and filed an administrative complaint. The management company denied discriminating against the family.
The terms of the settlement include that the property management company will pay the mother $5,000 and forgive over $5,500 that the leasing office alleges remains owed. As is common in these cases, leasing office representatives also agreed to attend fair housing training.
While there are always two sides to every story, the teaching moment here is that our teams on the ground should be alert to engage in the interactive process with our residents when requests come in generally and specifically when a request is received from a resident with a disability. I don’t know if that was done here, but this case is a cautionary tale that working with residents is the best way to avoid having to deal with a lawyer like me.
Just A Thought.