Owner of Hill House Apartments in Philadelphia Pays $30,000 to Settle Housing Discrimination Complaint

For Immediate Release

December 12, 2007

James Berry, Executive Director
Fair Housing Council of Suburban Philadelphia

Swarthmore, PA – The Fair Housing Council of Suburban Philadelphia (FHCSP) settled a complaint against Hill House Apartments located in Philadelphia, for violating the disability provision of the federal Fair Housing Act and Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.  Hill House is an eleven story apartment building, located in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia.

Marijane Ciccone, a former leasing agent for Hill House Apartments, contacted FHCSP and indicated that her former employer and the owner of Hill House Apartments, Paul Weinberg, was discriminating against potential applicants based on disability.  Ms. Ciccone had worked at the Hill House Apartments for about a year as the Office Manager.  During her time at Hill House, she witnessed at least eight instances where an interested and qualified applicant had been denied tenancy from Hill House due to discriminatory policies.  As an aspiring real estate professional, she was aware that housing discrimination is illegal, and was fed up with the discriminatory policies of her employer.  Therefore, in November of 2006 she decided to terminate her employment with Hill House Apartments, and filed an employment discrimination complaint separate from FHCSP.

When Ms. Ciccone contacted FHCSP in November, 2006, she indicated that she had e-mail evidence that Mr. Weinberg specifically did not want tenants using a wheelchair to reside at Hill House, regardless of whether they met all credit and income standards.  FHCSP conducted an investigation, and determined that the rental policies at Hill House Apartments were discriminatory against people who use wheelchairs.  James Berry, FHCSP’s Executive Director, stated, “It’s been nineteen years since people with disabilities have been protected under the Fair Housing Act, yet blatant acts of discrimination still occur across the region that affect people of all classes and income levels.”

In July, 2007, FHCSP filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) against Hill House Apartments, which was then referred to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) for investigation.  The parties agreed to the settlement in which Hill House Apartments paid $30,000 to further fair housing education and advocacy.  Mr. Weinberg admitted to no wrongdoing, and agreed to comply with the Fair Housing Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.  In addition, Mr. Weinberg agreed to attend a fair housing training to ensure compliance in the future.

Ms. Ciccone told FHCSP that her reasons for coming forward with this information was not for personal gain, but rather to let the community know that this type of discrimination was taking place.  She said, “It was so satisfying for me to learn that the Fair Housing Council truly does endeavor to keep housing opportunities for everyone.”

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in any aspect of the sale, rental, insuring, financing or advertising of dwellings on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status and disability.  Under the Fair Housing Act, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of a person’s major life activities.  In this case, a person requiring the use of a wheelchair would constitute a person with a disability, and would be lawfully protected.  Disability has been a protected class under the Fair Housing Act since 1988.

FHCSP, founded in 1956, is the nation’s oldest fair housing organization. FHCSP’s mission is to educate and advocate for equal access to quality, affordable housing for everyone in Southeast Pennsylvania. Anyone suspecting that they were denied housing for discriminatory reasons or housing providers who want information on how they can operate their business in a nondiscriminatory manner should contact FHCSP at 610-604-4411 or visit www.fhcsp.com.