The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today reported its sixth action in as many weeks on alleged fair housing violations. HUD today announced it has charged an Illinois apartment complex, Chateau Village Apartments, its management company, Banner Property Management, and property manager Anita Zubor, with violating the Fair Housing Act for refusing to accommodate the request of a woman with a disability to be transferred to a larger apartment that was easier to access.
Wendy Walsh, a woman with cervical and spinal disorders that substantially limited her ability to walk without crutches, determined that her first-floor apartment was too difficult for her to access due to 16 steps she had to negotiate, according to HUD. Walsh also needed additional space to store her therapeutic and exercise equipment.
Walsh reportedly wrote a letter to Chateau Village describing her problem and requested a transfer from a one-bedroom unit to a more accessible two-bedroom unit when one became available. The DuPage Housing Authority, which had provided Walsh a flexible rental voucher, had determined that Walsh’s letter and doctors’ notes sufficiently demonstrated a need for additional space to store her therapeutic and exercise equipment. As a result, the housing authority awarded her a two-bedroom voucher.
Chateau Village’s property manager, Zubor, allegedly denied the request for transfer and refused to place Walsh on a waiting list for a two-bedroom unit, according to HUD. The investigation showed that prior to Walsh’s request for a transfer, Chateau Village had allowed other tenants to transfer units. Moreover, Zubor allegedly wrote, “No landlord is required to accept a DuPage Housing voucher. Chateau Village Apartments only takes DuPage Housing vouchers for those whom already live here and stay in place in the same apartment.”
“Changing apartments would have meant four steps for this individual to negotiate rather than 16 steps,” said Carolyn Peoples, HUD assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “For a person with a mobility impairment, that is a world of difference.”
A hearing is shceduled for Jan. 11.
Housing discrimination charges carry a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 for a first offense in addition to actual damages. Sanctions can be more severe if the respondent has a history of housing discrimination.
Last week, HUD charged a Nevada landlord, Grand Canyon Enterprises Inc., with violating the Fair Housing Act by allegedly refusing to rent an apartment to an African-American couple based on their race and health impairments.
Earlier this month, HUD charged a Chicago man with Fair Housing violations for allegedly intimidating and harassing his Jewish neighbors based on their national origin and religion.
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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