The owners and property manager of an apartment building in Georgia are facing charges by HUD after a dispute with a tenant over the rent due date.
The tenant received income from disability benefits and received those payments the second Wednesday of every month. For that reason, the tenant asked the previous owner to move his rent due date to the middle of each month, and the previous landlord verbally agreed to the modification without applying a late fee.
The tenant remained at the property under this arrangement for seven years before a new management company took over. That company continued to allow the tenant to pay on or after the second Wednesday of each month.
However, the property was sold once again, and the new landlords and affiliated property management company insisted that the tenant pay by the 5th of each month or be subject to a $100 late fee.
The tenant brought the previous agreement to the attention of the property manager, but she refused to make the accommodation, citing a lack of documentation, despite the existence of at least 23 rent receipts.
Instead, the manager threatened the tenant with eviction. Three months later, the tenant was served with an eviction notice. At that time, the tenant received a letter claiming that he owed over $830 in fees, and that his lease would not be renewed.
Though the tenant was assessed for eviction fees, it does not appear that the eviction was brought before a judge at that time. The following month, a second notice of eviction was served, and the manager indicated that the tenant owed over $930.
The tenant found an attorney through a local legal services provider and the attorney presented a letter to the manager indicating that the request to pay in the middle of the month was a request for reasonable accommodation made by a tenant with a disability. The manager denied the request arguing that the rent due date did not pertain to the tenant’s disability. The tenant was evicted three months later. At that time, the manager claimed that the tenant owed $1,887 in fees.
HUD brought this lawsuit on behalf of the tenant, alleging discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act, for the failure to provide reasonable accommodation to a tenant with a disability, for changing the terms or conditions of the tenancy, and for denying housing to a tenant with a disability.
It is seeking compensatory damages, civil penalties, attorney fees, and an order requiring leasing employees to undergo Fair Housing training.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is 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.