Three Wisconsin landlords have recently been charged with violating Fair Housing laws by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
First, in late July, HUD announced that it charged a husband and wife who own a rental property in Brown County with violating the Fair Housing Act for allegedly creating
different rental requirements for a single mother and her son. The charge also alleges that the landlords’ lease agreement includes policies and rules restricting families with children.
Specifically, HUD’s complaint alleges that shortly after accepting a single mother’s rental application, the landlords added a new requirement that the single mother
promise to be present at home whenever her 17 year old son had visitors. The mother was unwilling to agree to this requirement and as a result the landlords refused to rent to her and her son. The landlord’s ended up renting the property to a family with no children. Additionally, it is alleged that the landlords’ lease agreement included clauses that are unduly burdensome on families with children, including a provision that says “no children are allowed to play in common areas of the building” and imposes
a $100 fine and eviction for violating said policy.
Second, on September 9, 2011, HUD charged a West Salem female landlord for violating Fair Housing laws by refusing to rent to a single mother because she did not have a man “to shovel the snow” for her. The landlord eventually rented the property to two men.
The rental property at issue is a home on a cattle farm and is located in a hollow. The landlord told the investigators that the winters there are “brutal” and a single mother could not handle the seclusion and the snow removal. The landlord went on to comment that it was “just common sense” to deny the applicant and then asked the investigator if he would allow his daughter to live alone with a child, a mile and a half from neighbors. Further inserting her foot into her mouth, the
landlord told the investigator, “[i]f she thinks I discriminated against her, I absolutely did.” The landlord continued to make matters worse by telling housing authorities that
she “never rents to single mothers, especially in the country,” and had no plans to change. She added that “single mothers are part of the country’s financial problems” today.
This case should be a “slam dunk” for HUD. The landlord would’ve greatly benefited from the assistance of counsel – although based on her comments she probably would not have listened to an attorney’s advice. Anyone care to wager on the outcome of this? I am expecting a rather large fine to be imposed.
Third, on September 26, 2011, HUD announced that it charged a La Crosse landlord and property manager with violating anti-discrimination laws for refusing to rent to an
African-American couple because of their race. It is alleged that the owner and property manager refused to show available apartments to the black couple. Additionally, they told the couple and other black applicants, that no rental units were available, while just minutes later they told white applicants of the available rental units and encouraged them to apply. This behavior allegedly occurred over a period of 2 months. Both black and white “testers” were sent to the property and confirmed that the black
testers were told no rental units were available while the white testers were told of open units and encouraged to apply.
Every day I hear of more and more landlords and property managers being charged with violating both federal and state Fair Housing laws. I wish that more landlords would take the time to educate themselves on these laws. Read some of my earlier posts on Fair Housing issues here, here and here.