The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday announced it has charged Draper and Kramer Inc. with violating the Fair Housing Act for refusing to rent an apartment to a family because the presence of the family’s infant child would exceed the landlord’s self-imposed occupancy limit.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful for a housing provider to discriminate because of children in the household, which includes placing unreasonable limitations on occupancy.
The charge alleges that the owners refused to rent a one-bedroom apartment at 1130 South Michigan Ave. in Chicago to a couple and their infant son. Prior to the birth of their son, the couple had lived in a studio apartment in the building and wanted to return because the property was near the university where the husband worked.
In April 2004, the couple visited the property and inquired about renting a one-bedroom apartment, according to HUD’s investigation. They met with a rental agent from Draper and Kramer Inc. who showed them both a one-bedroom and a two-bedroom unit. During the showing, the rental agent asked who would be living in the apartment. When told that the apartment would be for the couple and their child, the rental agent allegedly stated that it would not be possible for them to rent a one-bedroom apartment because no more than two people were allowed in a one-bedroom unit, HUD reported.
In August 2004, the couple returned to the property to inquire again about renting a one-bedroom unit, HUD said. During that visit, they met with the same agent. She remembered them and allegedly said, “Didn’t you come here in April, and didn’t I refuse you?” The husband requested a copy of the occupancy policy stating that no more than two people were permitted in a one-bedroom unit. The rental agent left and returned with the leasing director, Kelle Laarveld, who provided the couple with a copy of the occupancy policy.
At the time of the alleged violation, only one family with children resided in the 574-unit building, which consisted of 82 studio units, 410 one-bedroom units, and 82 two-bedroom units, according to HUD.
HUD’s investigation showed that Draper and Kramer Inc. enforced the occupancy policy without regard to the size of the unit, size of the bedrooms, or age of the residents. During the investigation, Draper and Kramer Inc. failed to offer an explanation as to why it ignored these factors in enforcing its policy.
“Congress made it illegal to discriminate against families with children in 1988,” said Kim Kendrick, assistant secretary for Fair Housing And Equal Opportunity. “In a time when finding decent, affordable housing can be difficult, equal access is more important than ever.”
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.