While I regularly report on housing discrimination cases filed (or settled) by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), I would be remiss if I did not check in on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Last fall, DOJ filed a federal lawsuit alleging that owners/managers of residential housing in Hawaii violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) by refusing to rent to families with children.
The complaint asserts that, at least since 2015, the defendants violated the FHA because they: (a) refused to rent (or to even negotiate for the rental) of three properties because of children; (b) directed prospects with children away from the properties identified in the complaint; and (c) made discouraging and/or discriminatory statement to potential residents with children who asked about housing, including statements such as the units were not “suitable” or that the housing was not the right “fit” for families with children.
The case was brought to DOJ after a local legal aid group conducted a series of fair housing tests which, DOJ claims, demonstrated discrimination against families with children in violation of the FHA. In the complaint, DOJ seeks monetary damages, a civil monetary penalty, and a court order barring future discrimination.
Now, these are just allegations in a complaint and there are always two (if not three) sides to every story. My point by highlighting this action is that, in addition to HUD (as well as state, county, and city agencies), the DOJ can (and will) act against residential property owners and management companies if they believe the facts warrant it. Always remember that litigating against the U.S. government is an expensive place to be for many private property owners. In many cases, the best play is to train leasing office staff on the law such that you will not need a lawyer like me to deal with DOJ.
Just a Thought.