La Crosse County property manager allegedly refused to rent to single mother
WASHINGTON, DC – September 8, 2011 – (RealEstateRama) — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is charging a La Crosse County, Wisconsin landlord with violating the Fair Housing Act for refusing to rent a house to a single mother because there was no adult male to live with her. HUD brings the charge on behalf of the single woman, claiming that the owner of the property, Dovenberg Investments, LLC and property manager Darlene Dovenberg refused to rent a house in rural Bangor to the woman because she, among other things, did not have a man “to shovel the snow.”
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination of any sort based on sex and family status.
“Fairness dictates, and the Fair Housing Act requires, that housing decisions not be based on outmoded stereotypes of people’s ‘place’ in our society,” stated John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will enforce the law whenever a housing provider seeks to limit a woman’s housing choices because of her gender or family composition.”
According to HUD’s charge, when the single woman called to inquire about renting the home, Dovenberg told her that she could not show her the property or rent to her because she did not have a man “to shovel the snow and stuff,” and abruptly terminated the call with the woman.
During HUD’s investigation, Dovenberg admitted that she believed a single woman would not be able to handle the seclusion and the snow removal, and that she didn’t want the woman calling her all the time to come out to fix things or to plow her out. Dovenberg also told a HUD investigator that she never rents to single women with children, “especially not in the country.” Dovenberg went on to offer her opinions regarding single women to HUD staff several times during the investigation.
Dovenberg subsequently rented the property to two men.
HUD’s 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 aggrieved persons for the damages caused them by the discrimination.
The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose fines in order to vindicate the public interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also damages to aggrieved persons.
FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate more than 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 (voice), (800) 927-9275 (TTY).