Several of the resident-owned communities we work with have had the great displeasure of dealing with complaints filed by residents under the Fair Housing Act. Most of these complaints are without merit and are eventually resolved in favor of the community. Quite often, the resident filing the complaint is simply trying to delay an eviction action, has a personal vendetta against the manager or one or more board members, or is attempting to prevent the association from exercising its rights to determine whether a "reasonable accommodation"should be granted to the resident.
It’s not a stretch to say that any resident that files a Fair Housing complaint is often regarded by many in the community as a major aggravation that is costing the association money and creating conflict and misery for his or her neighbors. Occasionally, other residents in the community (and even a few board members) will strongly suggest that the ROC would be better off if the association simply filed an action to evict the complaining resident.
As most of you already know, such a course of action is a recipe for certain disaster. The latest example can be found in a press release issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development on July 16, 2010.
The press release summarized the decision of a HUD Administrative Law Judge who ordered an Iowa landlord to pay $52,150 in damages and civil penalties for retaliating against a single mother of three by threatening to evict her because she filed a housing discrimination complaint.
The brief facts are as follows:
- The mother’s fair housing complaint alleged that the landlord refused to rent her a three-bedroom apartment and unjustly charged her a higher security deposit because of her sex
- HUD found no evidence of sex discrimination
- However, HUD nonetheless charged the landlord and the landlord’s management company with unlawfully retaliating against the tenant by terminating her lease and attempting to evict her because she filed the fair housing complaint
It’s important to note here that it was the action of retaliating against the renter that formed the basis of this judgment–even in the absence of any finding of discrimination.
Please keep this case in mind the next time one of your residents confronts you and demands that the association evict the "gadfly" that’s filed a fair housing complaint. The last time I checked, $52,000 was still a lot of money--whether in Iowa or in sunny Florida.