The owner and managers of a Wisconsin apartment complex are being charged with discrimination for failing to rein in other tenants who were harassing two tenants with disabilities.
According to the allegations filed by HUD, the landlords violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to intervene when two tenants, a mother and daughter, faced daily harassment by neighboring tenants.
The victims claim they were repeatedly menaced and subjected to comments like “You don’t belong here. You belong in an institution.” In one encounter, a resident allegedly referred to the younger tenant as “mentally retarded” and said, “You shouldn’t be out of your apartment during the day.” The mother suffers from cerebral palsy, the daughter from Down’s syndrome.
The tenants resided in a 55-plus senior housing complex with 15 units. The case was reported to the local police, who warned residents that the behavior may be criminal, but the victims say the harassment continued.
The mother also reported the harassment to apartment managers, but says that they responded by pressuring her to move, that they agreed with the offending tenants that the daughter was not capable of living independently, and that the managers indicated that the pair were causing too much trouble. Later, a manager told the tenants that their lease would not be renewed, and they moved from their apartment.
The Fair Housing Act creates a duty on the part of a property owner or manager to intervene in the face of harassment of one tenant by another if that harassment is based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin or disability. It’s also illegal to interfere with any person’s right to enjoy their rental home.
Penalties for housing discrimination cases can be severe, and include payment of monetary damages, fines, attorneys fees, and other orders such as a moratorium on managing properties or mandatory training of owners, managers and employees.
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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.