Fair Housing Center files suit alleging familial status bias at Huber Home Rentals

Further Information:

Jim McCarthy, Executive Director
Miami Valley Fair Housing Center
Voice: (937) 223-6035
Fax: (937) 223-6279

Oct. 16, 1998

The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the owners, operators, managers, and leasing agents of Huber Home Rentals are discriminating on the basis of familial status. The suit, which was filed yesterday, October 15, 1998, alleges violations of the federal Fair Housing Act. Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) of Cincinnati, and three individuals, join the Fair Housing Center as Plaintiffs in the action. The individuals are Ms. Toylyn Caldwell, Ms. Michelle Tolson, and Mr. Danny Tolson.

Homes Home Rentals is the dba name for Huber Investment Corporation, an Ohio corporation that has its principal place of business at 5550 Huber Road, in Huber Heights, Ohio. Huber Investment Corporation is one of the Miami Valley's largest housing providers, and owns, operates, and/or manages both single family dwellings and multiple family rental properties in the Dayton, Ohio metropolitan area.

In the summer of 1997, both Ms. Caldwell and Mrs. Tolson contacted Huber Home Rentals in response to advertisements they saw in the Dayton Daily News. Mrs. Tolson contacted Huber requesting information about a bedroom townhouse for herself and her four children. Ms. Caldwell contacted Huber requesting information about a four-bedroom house located at 7029 Montague
Road in Huber Heights, Ohio.

Ms. Caldwell's inquiry was made in June, 1997. In response to her inquiry, an agent of Huber Home Rentals took Ms. Caldwell to view two three bedroom townhouses. While Ms. Caldwell was viewing one of the townhouses, the Huber agent asked Ms. Caldwell how many children would be living with her. When Ms. Caldwell answered that her four children would live with her, the Huber agent told Ms. Caldwell that Huber Home Rentals' policy did not allow that many children in a three bedroom townhouse. The agent told Ms. Caldwell that she and her children would have to move to one of Huber's four bedroom houses. Ms. Caldwell, a single mother, could not afford the larger four-bedroom house, and was frustrated by Huber's refusal to rent a three-bedroom townhouse to her and her family. Ms. Caldwell contacted the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center to file a complaint against Huber.

Mrs. Tolson's inquiry was made in September, 1997, in response to a Huber ad that identified 7029 Montague as a 4 bedroom, 2-story house with 2 1/2 baths, 1 car garage, family room, dining room with air conditioning, renting for $765.00 per month, early pay. Mrs. Tolson telephoned Huber and asked if there were any four-bedroom houses still available. The Huber agent asked how many people would be living in the house. When Mrs. Tolson responded that she, her husband, and their five children would live there, the Huber agent told Mrs. Tolson that Huber Home Rentals had a policy of allowing no more than six people in a two bedroom house. The Huber agent told Mrs. Tolson that she and her family would need a five-bedroom house, and that Huber did not have any to rent. The Tolson's have never lived in a five-bedroom house, and felt sure that a four-bedroom house would be sufficient. Mrs. Tolson contacted the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center to file a complaint against Huber.

The Fair Housing Center took both Ms. Caldwell's and Mrs. Tolson's complaints and assured them that they would begin an investigation of Huber Home Rentals. During 1997, Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Inc. (HOME) of Cincinnati was under contract with Montgomery County to investigate complaints of housing discrimination received by the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) and to obtain services of fair housing testers. After receiving the complaints, MVFHC referred the cases to HOME for testing. HOME conducted multiple tests of Huber Home Rentals, and the results of the testing were consistent with the information provided by Ms. Caldwell and Mrs. Tolson.

Based on their findings, the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) and Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Cincinnati (HOME) joined with Ms. Caldwell and Mrs. and Mr. Tolson as Plaintiffs in filing the suit. Fair Housing law makes it possible not only for those directly harmed by discrimination, such as Ms. Caldwell, and her children, and Mrs. and Mr. Tolson, and their children, to bring suit, but also for community organizations, such as the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center and Housing Opportunities Made Equal, to sue on behalf of the community in order to root out housing discrimination. The Plaintiffs' are being represented by Stephen M. Dane and Michael L. Stokes of Cooper, Walinski & Cramer, a Toledo, Ohio law firm specializing in representing Plaintiffs in fair housing litigation.

The complaint alleges that Huber Investment Corporation, dba Huber Home Rentals, has violated the Fair Housing Act, which was passed by Congress 30 years ago to forbid discrimination in the sale or rental of housing on the basis of race, color, sex, religion and national origin. The Act was amended in 1988 to include disability or having children in the household.

Specifically, the suit alleges that Huber, among other things, refused on the basis of familial status to rent or to negotiate for the rental of dwellings, and has otherwise made unavailable or denied dwellings to persons because of familial status.

In addition, the suit alleges that Huber discriminated against persons in the terms, conditions, or privileges of rental of dwellings on the basis of familial status, and that Huber published statements, with respect to the rental of dwellings, that indicated a preference, limitation, or discrimination based on familial status, all in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. Finally, the suit alleges that Huber acted intentionally and willfully, thus warranting punitive damages.

The suit asks the Court to declare that Huber's has violated the federal Fair Housing Act; seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction restraining and enjoining Huber from discriminating on the basis of familial status; affirmative relief; compensatory damages to Toylyn Caldwell, individually and as next friend of her minor children, in the amount of $250,000.00; compensatory damages to Michelle, individually and as next friend of her minor children, and to Danny Tolson, in the amount of $250,000.00; compensatory damages to the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center and Housing Opportunities Made Equal in the amount of $70,000.00; punitive damages in the amount of $500,000.00; plus all attorney fees, costs, and expenses.

The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center is a private non-profit corporation, organized under Ohio law, and incorporated in 1993. Under the direction of a 23-member volunteer board of trustees and with a paid staff of three, the Center contracts with Montgomery County, The Affordable Housing Fund, and the City of Kettering to provide services that help to eliminate discriminatory housing practices. The Center works to educate the public about housing discrimination laws, discriminatory housing practices, and the availability of legal remedies for such discriminatory housing practices. The Center provides counseling, investigative, and referral services to the public. In addition, the Center educates the housing industry about fair housing law compliance through cooperative relationships with the Dayton Area Board of Realtors and the Greater Dayton Apartment Association, and the Kettering Board of Community Relations in order to expand equal housing opportunities in the Miami Valley.