Montana man and fair housing group share in DOJ’s $20,000 sex discrimination settlement

The United States Department of Justice obtained a $20,000 settlement on behalf of a Montana man and a housing rights group. Ben Coe, a male apartment seeker, and Montana Fair Housing will share in the $20,000 cash payment from Janice Schaberg, a Missoula housing provider who refused to rent her apartments to single men.

In May 2001, Coe was looking for an apartment for himself. An acquaintance told him of an apartment being advertised as available. The apartment, on Highway 200 East in Missoula, was owned by Schaberg.

Coe called Schaberg to inquire about the apartment. When Schaberg learned that Coe was single and intended to live alone, Schaberg explained that she did not rent to single male applicants and really preferred to rent her properties to female tenants.

Landlord told tester she preferred female tenants and admitted anti-male policy in HUD pleadings

Coe contacted Montana Fair Housing (MFH) the same week he spoke to Schaberg. MFH conducted a paired rental test on Schaberg’s property to check for sex discrimination. During the test, Schaberg told MFH’s female tester that she did not want to rent her apartments to single men.

In June and July 2001, MFH and Coe filed separate complaints of housing discrimination with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). During the ensuing HUD investigation, Schaberg admitted in pleadings that she had a policy of refusing to rent her properties to single men.

On June 20, 2002, HUD Secretary Mel Martinez issued a Charge of Discrimination against Schaberg. Coe and MFH chose to elect to have their claims heard in federal court. The Justice Department filed a federal complaint on behalf of Coe and MFH.

After several months of litigation, the Justice Department and Schaberg reached an agreement to settle the lawsuit. The Consent Order, approved by Magistrate Judge Leif B. Erickson, called for Schaberg to pay $18,000 to the plaintiffs within 30 days, if she sold any of her rental properties prior to June 10, 2003. Since Schaberg did not sell her properties, the Consent Order allowed her to pay $8,000 on June 10, 2003 and an additional $12,000 to be paid over five years with an interest rate of three percent.

The Consent Order also calls for Schaberg to attend fair housing training at her own expense. She can choose to have MFH conduct the training or pick another agency, subject to MFH’s approval. Schaberg must also provide anyone involved in the rental of her properties a copy of the  Consent Order from the case. The Consent Order will remain in effect for three years.

United States v. Schaberg
Case No. 3:02-cv-80201 (D. Mont.)
The Honorable Leif B. Erickson, US Magistrate Judge
William W. Mercer, US Attorney for Montana
HUD Complaint filed: June 2001
HUD Charge of Discrimination issued: June 20, 2002
Federal Lawsuit filed: July 2002
Consent Order approved: March 25, 2003