Michigan landlord pays $17,800 for "students only" policy

In November, Stacey Faulk, a single mother and student, agreed to accept a $17,800settlement to resolve claims of family status discrimination against Ismat Hamid, theowner and manager of Holiday Star Apartments in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Faulk and herdaughter, Bridgett, received legal assistance from the Fair Housing Center of WashtenawCounty and Attorney Michael Steinberg.

In August 1996, Faulk and her friend, KristenEllis, were searching for an apartment in Ypsilanti near Eastern Michigan University wherethey attended classes. Faulk and Ellis were looking for an apartment large enough toaccommodate themselves and Bridgett.

Faulk was living in Detroit when Ellis found and liked a unit at Holiday Star. Ellisviewed the apartment and told Hamid that she liked it. Hamid told Ellis that she and Faulkcould have the apartment if they both had jobs. Ellis was employed and Faulk had beenhired to work at a shoe store beginning the first week of September 1996, after the fallsemester began at Eastern Michigan University.

On August 15, 1996, Ellis, Faulk, and Bridgett went to view the apartment at HolidayStar. Bridgett was two years old at the time. When Hamid saw Bridgett, he asked Faulk whowould be living in the apartment. When Faulk replied that she, Bridgett, and Ellis wouldbe living in the unit, Hamid became rude.

Hamid told Faulk that no children were allowed to live in Holiday Star and that thecomplex was reserved for students. He repeatedly stressed the fact that there was noplayground at Holiday Star.

Faulk informed Hamid that she and Ellis were students and that they did not carewhether there was a playground. They simply wanted to live near the university campus.

Hamid told Faulk and Ellis that he did not want any children in his building. He toldthem that he did not have the right kind of insurance to allow children to live at thecomplex.

Faulk told Hamid that family status discrimination was illegal and that he could notrefuse to rent to her because she had a child. Hamid said, "Go ahead and sueme." Hamid then refused to rent a unit at Holiday Star to Ellis and Faulk.

Because Hamid denied them a unit at Holiday Star, Ellis and Faulk were unable to findan apartment together before classes began. Ellis decided to move into the studentdormitories at Eastern Michigan. Faulk could not live in the dorms with Bridgett and wasunable to find an apartment in her price range for more than a month. Faulk was unable toreturn to Ypsilanti until September 28, 1996.

Because she was unable to move sooner, Faulk lost her job at the shoe store. The rentthat she had to pay at her new apartment was $460 per month. This was much higher than the$285 per month that she would have paid by splitting the rent with Ellis at Holiday Star.

Faulk called the Fair Housing Center and told them about her ordeal. The Fair HousingCenter conducted three tests that backed up Faulk's assertions. Three women called Hamid,pretending that they had children and wanted to rent a unit at Holiday Star. In each test,Hamid told the women that Holiday Star was for students, not children. He emphasized thefact that there was no playground and that, in his opinion, Holiday Star was "notconvenient" for children.

The Fair Housing Center contacted Michael Steinberg, a cooperating attorney. Steinbergsued Hamid in Federal District Court on January 17, 1997. Hamid settled the complaintbefore it went to trial.