The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Monday announced it has charged Georgina Estrada, a Schaumburg, Ill., property owner, and her son, Martin Estrada, with violating the Fair Housing Act for refusing to provide an accessible parking space to a tenant with physical disabilities.
The charge alleges that the Estradas refused Gail Griswold’s requests for an accessible parking space, despite seeing her disability placard in her car window and her Social Security disability check. Griswold’s disabilities make it difficult for her to walk, requiring her to use a cane at times.
HUD’s investigation showed that when Griswold moved into the property in November 2004, the former owner provided her with an accessible parking space. In April 2005, the Estradas acquired the property and assumed the leases. Upon meeting the Estradas, Griswold notified them that the former landlord had assigned an accessible parking space to her. Griswold requested that the Estradas continue this accommodation and inform the other tenants of her assigned parking space. Mr. Estrada’s alleged response to the request was the universal symbol of accessibility is “painted on the parking lot — what else do you want?”
In July 2005 the parking lot was repaved, removing the universal accessibility logo from the spot formerly reserved for Griswold’s use, according to a press statement. Without the designation, other tenants and visitors began parking in the space. Griswold asked Mr. Estrada to assign the accessible parking space to her, notify the other tenants of the assignment, replace the universal accessibility logo on the assigned space, and place an accessible parking sign in front of the space.
The Estradas admitted that they rejected Griswold’s request, stating that they did so because they did not think she was disabled or in need of an accessible parking space, the statement said.
“No one who has a physical disability should be denied a reasonable accommodation needed in order to function on a daily basis,” said Kim Kendrick, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Only through continuous education efforts and aggressive enforcement actions can we end the unlawful practice of denying these requests.”
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate against persons because of their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status. Housing discrimination charges heard before an administrative law judge carry a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 for a first offense.
People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at (800) 669-9777 or DOJ at (800) 896-7743 or (202) 514-4713. Additional information is available at www.hud.gov and www.usdoj.gov.