Discrimination Against Homeless Family with Children Costs Easthampton, MA Landlord $16,500

An Easthampton landlord and rental agency have agreed to pay a formerly homeless family and the Housing Discrimination Project (HDP) a total of $16,500 to settle a housing discrimination complaint filed against them in Federal Court.

The complainants, a young couple, alleged that they were denied housing by local landlords Bernard and Julia Gawle as well as their rental agents, the Taylor Agency, solely because they had infant twins. The couple was given a $5,000 settlement and allo wed immediate occupancy in one of the Gawle's apartments. HDP received compensation for its testing work as well as legal fees, which brought the total settlement amount to $16,500.

The young couple were separated by homelessness. The mother had given birth to twins in January 1995 and was living in a local shelter because she and her partner had not been able to find suitable housing. He was forced to live in a rooming house while they continued their housing search.

The couple found what they thought was a suitable apartment in Easthampton owned by the Gawles. They applied for the apartment and believed that the landlords seemed eager to rent to them. However, the Gawles delayed action on their application for over a week and the couple began to suspect that they were experiencing housing discrimination.

The couple complained to the HDP, which conducted fair housing tests to determine if discrimination was keeping the couple from securing the apartment. Upon calling the Taylor Agency, a tester was informed that the Gawles would not rent an apartment in the building to people with small children. With this corroborating evidence, the couple filed a complaint against the Gawles and the Taylor Agency in Federal Court in Springfield. The defendants agreed to settle the case shortly thereafter.

"We are happy that the complainants received housing almost immediately after filing their case," stated Joel Feldman, attorney for the Housing Discrimination Project. "We hope this settlement will be an example for the community that no discrimination against any class of people, whether based on race or the existence of small children, should be tolerated."