Human Rights Commission Issues Important Fair Housing Decision


Contact: Michael Fordham Dennis
Compliance Director, Office of Human Rights

On August 31, 2005 the Commission on Human Rights issued a decision and order in the case of Elaine Walker, et. al. v. Privacy World at Glenmont Metrocentre, et. al., an apartment property in Wheaton, Maryland.  Ms. Walker alleged that she was refused the opportunity to rent an apartment based on her source of income because she was using a Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) certificate issued by the Housing Opportunities Commission to pay her rent.  The county’s fair housing law prohibits discrimination based on source of income. 

Privacy World did not contest the facts of the allegation but rather objected to the application of the source of income law by the Office of Human Rights (OHR).  When the complaint could not be voluntarily conciliated the OHR certified the issue to the Case Review Board of the Commission on Human Rights for public hearing.  The hearing, before the Office of Zoning & Administrative Hearings, produced a 93 page recommendation from Hearing Examiner Martin Grossman that recommended a finding for the complainants against the respondents. 

The Case Review Board affirmed the Hearing Examiner’s recommendation and found that “Respondent’s refusal to accept Section 8 vouchers is a discriminatory act in violation of the County’s human rights law.”  The Case Review Board ordered the respondents to pay $5,000.00 to Ms. Walker for embarrassment and $15,000.00 in civil penalties to Montgomery County.

This is the first time a human rights law enforcement agency in Maryland has ruled on the application of a source of income fair housing law.  Privacy World appealed this decision to the Montgomery County Circuit Court on September 20, 2005.

OHR receives, investigates and resolves formal complaints of discrimination in employment, real estate transactions, public accommodations and intimidation.  Complaints may be filed on the bases of race, sex, color, religious creed, national origin, ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, genetic status, presence of children, source of income, disability and family responsibilities.

Free brochures and posters in English and Spanish which contain information on the Human Rights law may be obtained from the HRC/OHR.  Knowledgeable HRC/OHR persons can be scheduled to speak about the laws.  For more information call the HRC/OHR at 240-777-8450 (voice) or 240-777-8480 (hearing impaired).  The HRC/OHR is located at 110 N. Washington Street, Suite 200, Rockville MD 20850.