Buffalo landlord ordered to pay $50,000 after spitting on African-American woman

In August, HUD Administrative Law Judge Thomas Heinz ordered a Buffalo landlord to pay $50,000 for berating and spitting upon an African-American woman who tried to rent an apartment in his building.  The judgement includes $25,000 in compensatory damages and a $25,000 civil penalty.

Sheila Stover, the complainant in the case, asserted in her complaint that she saw a "FOR RENT" sign in the window of a Buffalo apartment building owned by Joseph Gruzdaitis.  Stover said that when she attempted to get information about the apartment, Gruzdaitis leaned out of his window and said, "Not for you.  No Blacks.  F--- you, they don't pay their rent."  According to Stover, Gruzdaitis then spit on her, continued using profanity and racial epithets, and then ordered her to get off his property.

Stover filed a complaint with HUD.  HUD investigated the complaint and issued a Charge of Discrimination against Gruzdaitis.  Gruzdaitis did not respond to any of HUD's inquiries and refused to appear at Judge Heinz's administrative hearing.  Judge Heinz entered a default judgment against him.

Landlord was exempt from most Fair Housing Act provisions,
but was covered by advertising and threats provisions

In Judge Heinz's order, he asserted that because Gruzdaitis lived in the two-unit building in which the rental apartment was located, he was exempt from the provisions of the Fair Housing Act, except Section 804(c) which makes it illegal to make discriminatory statements concerning the rental of a dwelling.  Judge Heinz also ruled that Gruzdaitis violated Section 818 that prohibits intimidation, threats, and interference against someone in the exercise of their rights to look into the availability of housing.

Judge Heinz awarded the $25,000 in compensatory damages to Stover for emotional distress.  Judge Heinz also pointed out that Gruzdaitis had previously engaged in discriminatory acts in a case decided by the New York State Division of Human Rights.  Judge Heinz therefore decided
to impose the $25,000 civil penalty.

HUD v. Gruzdaitis

HUD ALJ No.

02-96-0377-8

Complaint filed

February 22, 1996

Hearing

August 14, 1998

Order

August 14, 1998