A property management company agreed this week to pay $15,000 to settle an allegation of discrimination.
The company, which manages properties nationally, was accused of discriminating against a family when it refused to renew the lease on a two-bedroom property for a family of five that had been occupying the unit for ten years.
The Middletown, Connecticut tenants filed a fair housing complaint, and HUD investigated. The property contained 1,464 square-feet, two-bedrooms, and a separate den/study. The company allegedly maintained an unwritten policy restricting occupancy to two persons per bedroom regardless of size, claiming that Connecticut state law required the restriction.
HUD determined that neither Connecticut state law nor any local ordinances impose a blanket restriction on occupancy in this case. The couple claim they were forced to move farther from work, and their children were forced to change schools.
While occupancy limits can be a gray area of the law, HUD issued guidelines in 1991 stating that, although an occupancy policy of two persons in a bedroom is generally reasonable under the Fair Housing Act, such a policy might in some circumstances unfairly exclude families with children which would violate the law. In examining whether such leasing policies are illegal, HUD will consider factors such as:
The size of the bedrooms and of the overall unit;
The age of the children;
The unit configuration;
Other physical limitations of the housing;
State and local law; and
Other relevant factors.
“While HUD maintains that two persons per bedroom is often a reasonable standard, we’ve put housing providers on notice that they must always consider the size of the rooms and overall apartment when setting occupancy standards,” said Bryan Greene, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
Under the terms of the agreement, the management company will pay $15,000 to the family and conduct a nationwide search to determine how many other families were affected by the company’s occupancy policy. Those affected families, if any, could be entitled to $3,500 in compensation. Additionally, the company will revise its occupancy policy, send notice of the new policy to all current residents, and include Equal Housing Opportunity language and logos in all advertising and promotional materials.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.