Two Arkansas landlords have been charged by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development with violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent a house to an individual solely based on the applicant’s national origin, HUD reported today.

Defendants Donald Rapp and E. Jane Rapp could face a maximum penalty of $11,000, plus actual damages for the complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorney fees.

HUD’s investigation of the complaint determined that a Hispanic woman and her daughter were denied the opportunity to rent a home advertised in the local newspaper.

HUD’s investigation also showed that after the landlord learned that the family was Hispanic, she questioned the prospective renter about how many people would live in the house and how many cars would be kept at the property. The landlord also allegedly informed the prospective renter that jobs were hard to find in the area.

The prospective renter expressed her desire to rent the house and explained that she was employed, according to HUD. She further explained that she would be living in the three-bedroom house with her daughter, her son and his fiancé. The landlord refused to rent to her, allegedly stating that this was not the house for her and that too many people would be living in the house.

One day later, the prospective renter asked the landlord if she could rent the house if just she and her daughter occupied the home, according to HUD’s report. The landlord refused, and allegedly stated, “Sometimes if you rent the house to two people, they will move in 15 or 16 others.”

The landlord later rented the house to a non-Hispanic couple with one child, according to a HUD release.

“Being able to secure housing without regard to one’s national origin is one of the cornerstones of the Fair Housing Act,” said Carolyn Peoples, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “No landlord can dictate where a family lives simply on the basis of its national origin. HUD is committed to opposing such discrimination.”

A hearing on the charges will be held by a U.S. Administrative Law Judge on Dec. 7 in the Sherwood, Ark., area, unless either the complainant or respondent elect to have the case decided by a federal judge in U.S. District Court.

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