HUD Announces Settlement in Alabama Fair Housing Case
We report on these issues from time to time to remind borrowers that they DO have rights, and do not have to take housing discrimination as just another part of doing business. The Department of Housing and Urban Development investigates and prosecutes violations of the Fair Housing act, and in October of 2021 HUD announced one of its latest actions.
HUD has reached an agreement with the owners of the HUD-supported Hollyhand Companies, Inc., and The Village at Meadowview in Fairhope, Alabama in connection with a Fair Housing complaint lodged with HUD.
This particular Fair Housing discrimination case involves a policy by the property owners which effectively prohibited visitors of a certain age due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The tenant complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development alleged the tenant could no longer care for her grandchildren in the home because doing so would be in violation of a stated “no visitors under 12” policy.
Fair Housing Act laws make it a crime to engage in discrimination when establishing terms and conditions for renting or owning property--the HUD press release about the settlement includes the following statement:
“Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by recipients of federal financial assistance. In addition, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance.”
Under federal law, discrimination includes restricting the use of a property due to fears that someone might spread a contagious disease, in this case, COVID-19.
“While housing providers can certainly take reasonable precautions to protect their residents from COVID-19, such as requiring residents and visitors to wear masks or maintain social distancing in public areas of an apartment building, they may not impose blanket prohibitions on any visits from children no matter what precautions are taken, thus keeping residents from visiting with family and friends in their own homes,”
Those are the words of Demetria McCain, HUD Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, who was quoted in the press release. Cain adds, “As the nation continues to recover from the pandemic, HUD remains committed to protecting the rights of individuals and families when their fair housing rights are violated.”
Under the Agreement, the owners of The Village at Meadowview agreed to pay the resident $20,000. The offending policy has been eliminated and the owners are required to “implement revised visitation policies across all of their federally-funded properties;”
Remember, sometimes only the victim of a Fair Housing violation has the power to stop future abuses--if you do not file a report HUD cannot investigate your claims. That is why those who have experienced discrimination at any stage of the housing process should file a complaint with the HUD Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (Relay).
You may also register complaints online at hud.gov/fairhousing.
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