WASHINGTON, D.C. – July 28, 2008 – (RealEstateRama) — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it has charged the owners and property manager of a Wisconsin rental property with housing discriminating for refusing to rent certain apartments to families with children. HUD alleges that the Joseph Peltz Trusts Numbers 1 and 2 and Rebecca Peltz, owners of an eight-unit apartment building in West Allis, and the on-site property manager, Crystal Sahr, unlawfully required tenants with children to rent apartments on the building’s first floor or excluded them entirely.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful for a housing provider to refuse to rent to families because they have children or impose different terms or conditions on families with children.
Kanita Brawley, a mother of two, inquired about renting a two-bedroom apartment that was available. When Sahr inquired about who would occupy the apartment, Brawley informed her that it would be for her and two children. Sahr allegedly informed Brawley that they did not accept tenants with children because of noise problems and those noise problems had caused the property to lose tenants in the past.
In response to Brawley’s complaint, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council, a HUD Fair Housing Initiatives Program agency, sent testers to the property. One tester contacted Sahr to inquire about the unit and volunteered that her two sons would occupy the apartment with her. Sahr allegedly informed the tester that the “building is not very soundproof” so they “don’t really rent to kids.” Sahr allegedly added, “We’ve had kids here for years,” but because they were losing tenants, “as families with kids move out, we didn’t rent to families with kids anymore.” A different tester who said she didn’t have children was told about available units.
When interviewed by a HUD investigator, Sahr stated that the property does rent to families with children, just not any of the units on the upper floor. She explained that since children are noisy and disturb other tenants they try to keep families with children on the first floor. Sahr also informed the investigator that she wasn’t aware that it was against the law to restrict children to certain areas of the property.
“Families with children shouldn’t be subjected to arbitrary restrictions when seeking housing,” said Kim Kendrick, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “When housing providers treat families with children differently, they not only violate their fair housing rights, they also undermine the principles upon which this nation was founded.”
The HUD charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages to each complainant for actual loss as a result of the discrimination, as well as damages for emotional distress, humiliation, and loss of civil rights. The judge may also order injunctive and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition to damages payable to the complainant, the judge may impose a civil penalty in order to vindicate the public interest. In the event of an election, a federal district court judge may also award punitive damages to a prevailing complainant.
FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate approximately 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at (800) 669-9777 (voice), (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Additional information is available at www.hud.gov/fairhousing. Stay on top of the most up-to-date news regarding the Fair Housing Act by signing up for the FHEO RSS Feed.