Justice Department wins $30,000 for Idaho family rejected by mobile home park over son’s disability

In July, a federal judge approved the Justice Department’s settlement of a lawsuit against the owners of Pioneer Village Mobile Home Park, a 65-space mobile home park in Weiser, Idaho. The consent order, approved by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in Boise, resolves a lawsuit filed in September 2001 against Victoria and Floyd Madsen alleging that the Madsens violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent a mobile home space to a mother and son, on the basis of the son’s disability.

Settlement includes monetary payment, training, and monitoring by state and federal government The consent order permanently enjoins the defendants and their employees and agents from discriminating against disabled tenants or applicants. Victoria and Floyd Madsen will also pay Karen and Jason Cox, the complainants, $30,000. In addition, the consent order provides for civil rights training of the defendants’ employees;  implementation of measures to raise tenants’ and applicants’ awareness of their fair housing rights; and monitoring of the defendants’ rental practices by the Justice Department and the Idaho Human Rights Commission for a period of three years from the signing of the agreement.

The lawsuit alleged that the owners rejected the family’s application to rent a space in Pioneer Village because of the son’s schizophrenia, and that defendant Victoria Madsen made statements suggesting that she did not want residents with mental disabilities in Pioneer Village. The complaint further alleged that the family was unable to buy the home of their choice, located on Pioneer Village grounds. The Idaho Human Rights Commission
joined in the Justice Department’s lawsuit in order to enforce the fair housing provisions of the Idaho Human Rights Act.

Mobile home park owners rejected application after seeing son received disability income

In September 2000, the Coxes applied to buy a mobile within the Pioneer Mobile Home Park. Their purchase was contingent on their ability to rent a space within the park. Karen Cox filled out and mailed an application to the park owners, hoping to be approved. On the application, she included the information that her son received Social Security Disability Income.

In October 2000, the Madsens rejected the Coxes’ application. The defendants made statements to both Karen Cox and the seller of the mobile home, Wayne Stafford, that they did not want mentally disabled tenants in their mobile home park. Later that month, Karen and Jason Cox filed housing discrimination complaints against the Masdens with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). After HUD investigated the case and determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that unlawful discrimination had occurred, it referred the matter to the Justice Department.

The Defendants denied that they discriminated against Karen and Jason Cox because of Jason’s disabilities. They claimed that the Coxes’ application had been rejected, because  they failed to provide more than one rental reference. They also said that the rejection
was based on the Coxes’ lack of employment history.

Owners claimed to run "discrimination free” park

The Madsens admitted to the Justice Department that they rejected the application after they learned that Jason Cox had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
They also claimed to run the Pioneer Mobile Home Park as “a discrimination free environment.”

“It has been over thirteen years since housing discrimination against people with disabilities was outlawed, yet people with mental disabilities and their loved ones still
suffer exclusion from housing opportunities,” said Ralph F. Boyd, Jr., Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. He added that this settlement “shows that the Justice Department will take aggressive action against those who deny housing to persons with mental disabilities.”

United States v. Madsen
Case No. CIV-01-0468-S-BLW
U.S. District Court, District of Idaho
The Honorable B. Lynn Winmill, Judge
Federal complaint filed: September 12, 2001
Consent Order: July 29, 2002