New Jersey landlord pays $4,800 and agrees to fair housing training after keeping kids off the 2nd floor

Camille Musa Obeidallah, the owner of rental properties in Lodi, New Jersey, signed a Consent Order that requires her to pay a total of $4,800 and receive training in the requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act. The September 2002 Consent Order, approved by Administrative Law Judge Constance O’Bryant, resolves allegations that Obeidallah refused to rent a second-floor unit to Sandra Cabreja and her four-year-old son. Obeidallah claimed that she didn’t want to rent the apartment to Cabreja, because it would be unfair to the neighbors below, and because there are steep stairs leading up to the unit.

Obeidallah: Second-floor unit “would not be a good place for a four-year-old child”

On May 31, 2001, Cabreja responded to an ad for Obeidallah’s second-floor apartment. During the telephone conversation, Obeidallah asked who the apartment was for. When Cabreja responded that it was for her and her four-year-old son, Obeidallah said, “It would not be fair to have a four-year-old upstairs, because the people downstairs will be uncomfortable and it would not be a good place for a four-year-old child.”

Cabreja contacted the Fair Housing Council (FHC) of Northern New Jersey to complaint about Obeidallah. The FHC tested Obeidallah and confirmed Cabreja’s allegations. Obeidallah told a tester who asserted that she had a three-year-old child that “it would not be conducive to a peaceful environment to have a child on the second floor.” The FHC then assisted Cabreja in filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

During the HUD investigation, Obeidallah readily admitted to investigators that she did not want to rent her second-floor unit to someone with a young child. The investigation also revealed that the unit was eventually rented to a single woman with no children.

During an investigatory interview in November 2001, HUD investigator Doug Maloney asked Obeidallah if she preferred renting the second floor unit in her two-unit building to someone without children. Obeidallah responded, “Absolutely.” She later added, “This is not an apartment building. It’s a private home. I have the right to rent to whomever I want to.”

Although the building contained only two units, Obeidallah did not live in one of them and was not exempt from the Fair Housing Act or the fair housing laws of New Jersey.

Obeidallah will pay the Fair Housing Council of Northern New Jersey $350 for fair housing training as part of the Consent Order. She will also pay a $250 civil penalty to the United States. Louis Smigel, HUD’s Acting Regional Counsel, represented HUD in this case.

HUD v. Obeidallah
Case No. HUD ALJ 02-02-0046-8
The Honorable Constance T. O’Bryant, Admin. Law Judge
HUD complaint filed: October 29, 2001
Discrimination Charge Issued: June 6, 2002
Consent Order Approved: September 30, 2002