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Fifth Third charged by HUD in disability discrimination suit

August 26, 2013
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is charging Fifth Third (FITB) with discriminating against a couple with disabilities who were attempting to refinance their mortgage.
     Fifth Third's banking unit, mortgage division and Cranbrook Mortgage Corp. are accused of requiring unnecessary medical documentation from the couple, HUD announced Thursday. The couple claim they were required to provide a physician's statement for proof of disability income.
     Federal law allows lenders to verify income, but they are barred from placing higher qualification standards on applicants who receive disability payments. The Fair Housing Act also prohibits lenders from inquiring about the nature or severity of a disability.

Westchester loses $7.4M in HUD grants over housing case

August 16, 2013
After giving Westchester one last chance to comply with its demands over a central element of a 2009 fair housing settlement, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said Friday it would take $7.4 million in grants to help low-income areas away from the county and send them to other communities.
     Some of the 2011 Community Development Block Grant money and other funds could go to Westchester’s big cities, which are funded separately from the county. But nonprofits and municipal projects in needy areas of Port Chester, Peekskill, Greenburgh and other municipalities will not get it. The grants from 2012 and 2013 also are being withheld but their fate won’t be decided until later. HUD officials have said if the 2011 money is not reallocated by Sept. 30 it will go back to the federal Treasury.
     HUD officials laid the blame on the county for not complying with its civil rights obligations

Vanguard Management Group Inc. and HOA agree to pay $150K to settle discrimination lawsuit

August 14, 2013
The Justice Department announced today that the Townhomes of Kings Lake HOA Inc. (HOA) and Vanguard Management Group Inc. have agreed to pay $150,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The lawsuit alleged that the HOA adopted and both defendants enforced occupancy limits that discriminated against families with children at the Townhomes of Kings Lake, a 249-townhome community in Gibsonton, Fla.
     Under the proposed consent decree, which must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, the defendants will pay $45,000 to the family that initiated the original complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), $85,000 into a victim fund to compensate other aggrieved families, and $20,000 to the United States as a civil penalty. In addition, the proposed consent decree prohibits the defendants from discriminating in the future against families with children and requires the defendants to receive training on the requirements of the FHA. In January 2013, while the lawsuit was pending, the HOA modified its occupancy limits to permit four occupants in 2-bedroom townhomes, six occupants in 3-bedroom townhomes, and eight occupants in 4-bedroom townhomes.
     “The Fair Housing Act ensures that families with children are not denied their housing rights based on discriminatory occupancy policies,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce fair housing laws that protect the rights of families with children.”

DOJ resolves lawsuit alleging discrimination on basis of race and national origin in Minneapolis

August 13, 2013
The Justice Department today announced a settlement of its lawsuit alleging that Highland Management Group Inc ., Edina Park Apartments LLC, and Amy Koch violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) by discriminating against Somali prospective renters at Edina Park Apartments in Edina, Minn. a suburb of Minneapolis. After filing the complaint earlier today, the department submitted the settlement to United States District Court Judge Susan R. Nelson, in the form of a proposed consent decree.
     The case originated based on evidence generated by the department’s Fair Housing Testing Program, in which individuals pose as prospective renters to gather information about possible discriminatory practices. The testing uncovered evidence that Amy Koch, who was the then property manager at Edina Park Apartments, showed white testers apartments when they walked in while she told Somali testers they had to make an appointment to see an apartment the next day. She also failed to tell Somali testers about certain apartments becoming available that she mentioned to white testers. Amy Koch was an employee of Highland Management Group, Inc.

North Arlington apartment owner faces charges for deying rental opportunities to African-Americans

July 22, 2013
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced charges against Michael Pontoriero, a North Arlington, New Jersey apartment property owner who has allegedly denied equal housing opportunities for African American renters.
     It’s a crime to impose different rental terms and conditions for a prospective renter based off of their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status. Discriminating against a tenant for any one of these conditions is a violation of the Fair Housing Act.
     According to HUD’s charges, Pontoriero did just that. As the owner of two apartment properties, he allegedly refused to show apartments to African American renters. After a man believed that Pontoriero refused to show up to a scheduled appointment due to his race, he decided to contact the Fair Housing Council of Northern New Jersey (FHCNNJ), a non-profit organization that investigates housing discrimination claims for HUD..

NCRC statement on HUD’s proposed affirmatively furthering Fair Housing rule

July 22, 2013
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released for public comment a proposed regulation clarifying the duty of government funded entities to Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing.
     This highly anticipated rule provides guidance to over 1200 local governments, all states, and more than 4000 Housing Authorities and community development agencies who receive federal funds on their fair housing responsibilities under Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, commonly known as the Fair Housing Act. “NCRC is extremely pleased that HUD has issued this new regulation, which sets forth the process for state and local jurisdictions to address patterns of segregation and racial and ethnic concentrations of poverty in their jurisdictions,” said NCRC President and CEO John Taylor.
     “Today is a step forward for communities across the United States in dealing with the vestiges of segregation and ongoing housing discrimination.”
     As the proposed HUD rule states, “The Fair Housing Act not only prohibits discrimination but, in conjunction with other statutes, directs HUD’s program participants to take steps proactively to overcome historic patterns of segregation, promote fair housing choice, and foster inclusive communities for all.”

HUD charges New Jersey landlords with refusing to rent to African-Americans

July 15, 2013
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has charged the owners of two apartment buildings in North Arlington, New Jersey, with violating the Fair Housing Act for allegedly denying rental opportunities to African Americans.
     HUD’s charge alleges that Michael Pontoriero, an owner of the buildings, refused to show apartments to or return the calls of a prospective tenant after learning that he is African American, and that Pontoriero repeated these and other discriminatory behaviors against African Americans in four separate tests conducted by the Fair Housing Council of Northern New Jersey (FHCNNJ).
     The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to rent or impose different rental terms or conditions on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status.

Washington rental homeowners and managers sued for discrimination against disabled residents

July 02, 2013
The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against the owners and managers of rental homes in and near Kelso and Longview, Wash., for violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against persons with disabilities.
     The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, alleges that Linda Barber, Bert Barber and Lori Thompson engaged in a pattern or practice of violating the Fair Housing Act or denied rights protected by the Act. Specifically, the lawsuit asserts that the defendants established and implemented a discriminatory policy that allowed waiver of the defendants’ mandatory $1,000 “pet deposit” for service animals with specialized training, but not for other assistance animals, including emotional support animals. The suit also alleges that, by refusing a tenant’s requests for a reasonable accommodation to waive the $1,000 pet deposit for her assistance animal, the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act.
     “The Fair Housing Act ensures that individuals with disabilities who live with and benefit from assistance animals have equal access to housing,” said Eric Halperin, Senior Counsel and Special Counsel for Fair Lending in the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of fair housing laws that protect the rights of persons with disabilities.”
     

HUD charges Minnesota property owner with discrimination against single mother and her daughter

July 02, 2013
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)announced today that it is charging a Jackson, Minnesota, landlord with violating the Fair Housing Act for allegedly refusing to rent an apartment to a woman and her young daughter.
     HUD’s charge alleges that the owner refused to rent to the family because he preferred not to rent to families with children.
     The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to rent or to impose different rental terms on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status. “Refusing to rent housing to families with children is against the law unless the property legally qualifies as housing for older persons,” said Bryan Greene, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
     “HUD will continue to take action against property owners who discriminate against prospective tenants because of their family status.”

DOJ reaches settlement with mobile home park owner for discriminating against African-Americans

July 01, 2013
The Justice Department announced today that Lawrence Properties Inc., Lawrence at Lakewood LLC, Michael Lawrence, and Williams Bounds have agreed to pay $35,000 to settle a lawsuit involving violations of the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants denied housing to an African American woman and her family because of race. The lawsuit also alleged that the owner and the regional manager of Lawrence Properties communicated to employees a company policy of not renting to African Americans.
     Under the consent order, which was approved today by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, the defendants will pay $25,000 to the family who was denied housing and $10,000 to the United States as a civil penalty. In addition, the order prohibits the defendants from discriminating in the future against prospective tenants based on race, mandates the implementation of a non-discriminatory rental policy, and requires the defendants and their employees to receive training on the Fair Housing Act.
     “No family should be denied housing because of their race,” said Eric Halperin, Senior Counsel and Special Counsel for Fair Lending in the Civil Rights Division. “We are committed to enforcing the Fair Housing Act to ensure that everyone has the freedom to choose where they live.”
     

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