HUD Secretary found that landlord discriminated based on disability
WASHINGTON, DC – August 24, 2012 – (RealEstateRama) — A West Virginia woman caring for her brother who has autism knew something was wrong when she tried to rent an apartment in Charleston from landlord Michael Corey in 2009. The landlord demanded that before he would sign a lease agreement, the woman must purchase a $1 million insurance policy to cover any damages or injuries caused by her brother and sign an agreement assuming all legal liability for her brother’s actions. In addition, the landlord required the woman to obtain a doctor’s note regarding her brother’s condition. The woman, believing she was being discriminated against, filed a fair housing complaint with HUD.
Following two initial decisions by HUD Administrative Law Judges, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan found that the landlord violated the Fair Housing Act and ordered him to pay $34,000, which includes $18,000 in damages to the woman and $16,000 in civil penalties to the government.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to deny housing or impose different rental terms and conditions based on disability, race, national origin, color, religion, sex, or familial status.
“The order reaffirms HUD’s commitment to protecting the rights of persons with disabilities,” stated John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “No one trying to find a place to call home should be held to a different standard or required to meet additional obligations because they have a disability.”
HUD found that in April 2009, the woman responded to an advertisement in the Charleston Ad Bulletin for a house for rent. After the woman informed the landlord that her brother had been diagnosed with autism, the landlord required her to purchase the $1 million insurance policy, sign a document assuming all legal liability, and obtain a doctor’s note before he would consider renting to her. The landlord admitted at trial that he does not require non-disabled applicants to meet the same requirements and acknowledged that it was his belief that “persons diagnosed with autism and mental retardation pose a greater risk in terms of liability.” HUD determined that although the landlord had never met the woman’s brother, he worried that the brother, because he has autism, would start a fire or attack neighbors.
The woman, who is the legal guardian and primary caretaker of her brother, stated, “My brother’s one of the most loving persons you’ll ever meet. He’s a human being and the idea he would harm anyone else brings me to tears.”
HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, with its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program, investigates approximately 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they have experienced or witnessed unlawful housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 (voice), or 1-800-927-9275 (TTY). More information about fair housing rights is available at HUD’s website, www.hud.gov/fairhousing.