The Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday reported its fourth action in almost a month on alleged Fair Housing violations. HUD announced yesterday that it charged Peter Altmayer of Chicago with violating the Fair Housing Act when he allegedly harassed and intimidated his neighbors based upon their national origins and religion.
According to HUD’s investigation, in October 1999, Elie Bitton and his family–whose Jewish origins include Israel and Mexico–purchased a home next door to Altmayer on Jarvis Avenue in Chicago. During Bitton’s initial meeting with his neighbor, Bitton asked Altmeyer if he was Jewish. Altmeyer allegedly responded that he hated Jewish people. The complainants allege that the harassment began shortly after that first meeting and has continued for more than five years, according to HUD.
Altmayer’s conduct allegedly included shouting obscenities and death threats, throwing bricks at the Bitton residence, exposing himself and making a number of anti-Semitic remarks, HUD reported.
“No family should be subjected to the torment this family went through,” said Carolyn Peoples, HUD assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “The right to live where you want, without regard to religion or national origin is one of the cornerstones of the Fair Housing Act.”
A hearing on the charges is scheduled to be held by a U.S. Administrative Law Judge on Jan. 4, 2005, in the Chicago area, unless either the complainant or respondent elect to have the case decided by a federal judge in U.S. District Court.
Housing discrimination charges carry a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 for a first offense in addition to actual damages for the complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorney fees. Sanctions can be more severe if the respondent has a history of housing discrimination. Should either party elect to go to federal district court, either party may request a jury trial.
Last month, HUD charged apartment building owner Barron’s Gate Construction Co. of Woodbridge, N.J., with Fair Housing violations for their alleged refusal to rent an apartment solely based on the applicant’s national origin and religion. The housing agency also made charges against newspaper publisher Want Ads of Boise Inc., alleging the company violated the Fair Housing Act by accepting and publishing housing ads in the Thrifty Nickel that excluded potential owners and renters because of their familial status.
In late September, the department charged two Arkansas landlords with Fair Housing violations for their alleged refusal to rent a house to an individual solely based on the applicant’s national origin.
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