Brother and sister win $50,000 in separate disability complaints against Illinois complex

HUD Administrative Law Judge Robert Andretta recently awarded more than $50,000 to Jerome Bradford and his sister, Victoria Bradford, who are both disabled. The Bradfords filed separate complaints against the owners and managers of Pheasant Ridge Apar tments, a complex in Orland Hills, Illinois.

Jerome Bradford, who has several mental disabilities, was shown an apartment and interviewed in April 1994. On his application, Jerome claimed he suffered from dyslexia and "borderline mental retardation" and that he received Social Security bene fits.

The apartment manager, Cynthia Ruel, contacted Jerome's landlord as part of the screening process. The landlord advised her of a couple of incidents involving Jerome. He said that Jerome had removed the windows in his apartment and replaced t hem with other windows. Jerome's landlord also said that Jerome had been late with his rent a few times but was normally very prompt. He also said Jerome's housekeeping habits were good.

Ruel did a criminal background check on Jerome. She found that Jerome had been arrested for battery and property damage but that the charges had been dropped. Although the report did not identify the victim of the alleged battery, Ruel wrote in her notes that Jerome had assaulted his former landlord and then broke out his windows. Ruel recommended that Jerome's application be rejected and forwarded her notes and Jerome's application to Margaret Mead who made the final decision.

Jerome was informed that his application had been rejected because of "unfavorable rental references." Jerome made an appointment to see Mead. Mead told Jerome that his application had been denied because of the assault against his landlord. Je rome denied that he ever assaulted his landlord. Mead told him that he needed to provide proof that the charges were untrue.

Jerome obtained a copy of the criminal background check that Ruel had received. When he saw that the document did not list the complaining party, Jerome obtained a copy of the actual charges. Those documents showed that the person who filed the charges was a former girlfriend and not his landlord. Jerome attempted to give copies of the documents to Ruel, but she refused to take them. Jerome made several attempts to give the documents to Mead, to no avail.

Jerome was forced to move into an unsubsidized complex that he could barely afford on his income. Jerome also said that he was harassed by the maintenance man at the complex and felt intimidated living there.

Judge Andretta awarded Jerome $20,049 in punitive and compensatory damages. Andretta noted that he had been prepared to give a much larger punitive award, but that the HUD Secretary had only asked for $10,000.

Victoria Bradford is also mentally disabled. She suffers from "schizo-effective disorder" and "borderline mental retardation." Her mother claimed that Victoria suffered from brief periods of anxiety and was also prone to seizures. In March 1993 , Victoria applied for an apartment at Pheasant Ridge. On July 14, 1994, Ruel called Victoria for an interview. Victoria updated her application and waited to hear from Ruel or Mead. Between July 20, 1994 and August 10, 1994, Victoria called Pheasant Ri dge nine times to inquire about her status as a prospective tenant.

On July 29 (Victoria's seventh call to the complex), Mead told Victoria that she didn't appreciate Victoria's "harassing calls every day" and that she didn't have to provide Victoria with a "day to day, blow by blow update" on her application. Ph one records showed that the complex didn't return a single call to Victoria. On August 16, 1994, Mead notified Victoria that she had been rejected as a tenant because of her "disruptive follow-up behavior" and "inconsistent information" on her rental app lication about her previous landlords. Mead told a HUD investigator that Victoria was rejected mainly because she called them too much.