Contact: Joe Wincze (203) 576-8323
FAIR HOUSING ASSOCIATION OF CONNECTICUT
45 LYON TERRACE
BRIDGEPORT, CT. 06604
Sometimes people learn their lesson the hard way; and that appears to be the case with Colonial Village Condominium Association of Shelton, CT who have recently paid out close to $15,000 to settle two housing discrimination complaints filed against them. Both complaints were filed with the CT Commission On Human Rights & Opportunities in December/1999 and March/2000 by a former unit owner and a potential buyer who alleged discrimination due to the presence of minor children in the family. The complaints were filed against the condo association and its President of the Board of Directors, Rosalinda Hasselbacher.
The issue arose when Charles Sullivan of Shelton wished to sell his 3-bedroom unit to Patricia Kelley-a single mother with four children ages 13, 11, 9, and 7 in November of 1999. At that time, Mr. Sullivan requested that the condo association allow the sale to go through. However, the response he received from Ms. Hasselbacher was that the sale could not go forward due to the fact that occupancy by the Kelley family of five family members would be in violation of condominium by-laws which only permit a maximum of four family members per unit.
Ms. Hasselbacher did indicate that Mr. Sullivan could request an amendment of these by-laws but such would require 90 days to carry out and any expenses incurred by the amendment process would have to be borne by Sullivan. It was at this point that Sullivan contacted Joe Wincze of the Fair Housing Association of Connecticut.
Wincze informed Sullivan that under the fair housing guidelines, limiting the number of occupants to a particular unit of less than two people per bedroom (in most instances) would be considered discriminatory and presumed to exclude families with minor children. Wincze offered to contact the condo association in hopes of resolving the matter and subsequently discussed the issue with the associations attorney, Thomas J. Welch of Shelton. Wincze pointed out to Attorney Welch that restricting occupancy to four people or less was too restrictive and discriminatory against families with minor children. Wincze strongly urged him to recommend that the association change the by-law to be in compliance with federal and state fair housing laws. He also pointed out the absurdity of having Sullivan have to request the change and incur any expenses involved. Clearly if the by-law said sale of the unit should not be to anyone other than a member of the white race, Wincze stated, there should be no need to wait for a formal request for an amendment before action is taken. This is basically the same thing. The by-law is overtly discriminatory and should be changed immediately! Wincze also faxed certain materials to Attorney Welch, which supported his position such as HUD regulations, etc.
Upon receiving another call from Sullivan a few weeks later, Wincze learned that his efforts to reason with the condominium and its attorney were apparently futile. Not only was Colonial Village unwilling to change the by-laws on their own and not backing off their position that sale of the unit to the Kelley family would be violation of the by-laws; but to make matters worse, the condo President (Hasselbacher) had informed Ms. Kelley that if she occupied the unit in violation of these by-laws she might be subject to a $25 per day fine.
Needless to say, the sale fell through when Kelley did not want to run the risk of incurring a daily fine. Subsequently, official complaints of discrimination were filed by both Sullivan and Kelley with Winczes assistance who also succeeded in getting them legal representation by a Bridgeport lawyer, Alan Rosner.
In March/2001 a CAUSE FINDING was made by the CT Commission On Human Rights & Opportunities following a full investigation indicating that they believed Colonial Village and their President, Rosalinda Hasselbacher, committed an act of discrimination against both Sullivan and Kelley.
Subsequent to the CAUSE FINDING, Attorney Rosner successfully negotiated settlements with Colonial Village, which resulted in $3,750 being paid to Kelley and $11,000 paid to Sullivan.
Remarking on the case and settlements received, Wincze commented, Once again we have a sad instance where certain people would simply not listen to reason. I thought I would be able to resolve the matter with a simple phone call but apparently Colonial Village Condominium either did not take me serious or were not convinced of the validity of my argument. Unfortunately, it was not until the CT Commission made their CAUSE FINDING that they finally got the message. In my opinion, this case never should have taken almost two years to settle. I guess some people just learn their lesson the hard way! Wincze indicated that the by-law in question has since been changed and is now in compliance with the law.
Joe Wincze President Fair Housing Association of Connecticut 45 Lyon Terrace Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604 (203) 576-8323