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HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 98-231
Further Information:For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685Tuesday
Or contact your local HUD officeJune 16, 1998


WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo today announced that an Oregon mobile home park owner and the park's manager have agreed to pay $27,000 to settle housing discrimination charges accusing them of refusing to rent to a couple because the couple had a 4-year-old son.

"This settlement, coming just days before Father's Day, should send an important message to landlords around the nation about family values," Cuomo said. "It says we will not allow men and women to become victims of housing discrimination when they become mothers and fathers. It says housing discrimination against families is illegal and intolerable, and we are ending it once and for all."

Larry Angell, owner of the Scofield Mobile Home Park near Salem, OR, and park manager Hazel Dwigans agreed to make the $27,000 payment to settle the discrimination charges filed by HUD. HUD accused the two of illegally discriminating against Paul and Margo Gibson and their then-4-year-old son, Christopher, by refusing to allow the family to live in the park in April 1997.

The refusal forced the Gibson family to cancel their plans to purchase a mobile home in the park from Lorna Knodel, who was 89 at the time of the incident. Knodel was also listed as a discrimination victim because of the lost sale, as was Barbara Griffin, her real estate agent.

Under the settlement, Knodel will receive $11,000, the Gibson family will get $8,000, and Griffin will get $3,000 in compensatory damages. HUD will get $5,000 in civil penalties.

Knodel said of the settlement: "I feel that HUD did a real good job. I'm satisfied with the settlement because I got what I asked for - money for damages and the abuse I had to take. Since my complaint was publicized, I have been contacted by other families that have had troubles and I have referred them to the HUD fair housing investigators in Portland, who did a very thorough job of investigating my situation."

Paul Gibson said he was happy with the settlement: "I wasn't out to win the lottery, I just wanted what was fair. We would have been happy to live in Mr. Angell's trailer park if he had just abided by the law. I hope that other landlords will learn a lesson from this case so that other people like me and my family won't have to go through this."

"This year, the 30th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, I am reaffirming HUD's commitment to the crackdown on housing discrimination that we began in September at President Clinton's direction," Cuomo said. "Unfortunately, this type of discrimination isn't just part of our past. It's a harsh reality that hurts far too many Americans today."

President Clinton's proposed 1999 federal budget seeks $22 million in increased funding for HUD to intensify the fight against housing discrimination. The 73 percent increase for HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity would boost spending by the office to $52 million. If approved by Congress, it would be the largest single budget increase in civil rights law enforcement in two decades.

The Fair Housing Act bars discrimination against families with children. The Act allows residential communities designed for older people to exclude children, but only if they meet certain requirements. Scofield Mobile Home Park does not meet the requirements, because many of its residents are younger than 55.

In addition to family status, the Fair Housing Act bars housing discrimination on account of race, color, religion, sex, disability and national origin. The Act covers the sale, rental, financing and advertising of almost all housing in the nation. Fair housing investigations are conducted by HUD investigators, state and city agencies working with HUD, and private fair housing groups that receive HUD funds.

If the case had not settled, a hearing on the discrimination charges against Angell and Dwigans could have been held before an Administrative Law Judge, who could have imposed a top penalty of $11,000 in civil penalties for a first offense and $55,000 for later offenses. Additional penalties could include: monetary compensation to victims for actual damages, humiliation, mental distress, and loss of their fair housing rights; attorney fees; and court costs.

Any party to a charge of discrimination can also choose to have the case heard in U.S. District Court. A finding by a federal court of a violation may include an assessment of punitive damages, as well as compensation for victims.

The Fair Housing Act covers the sale, rental, financing and advertising of almost all housing in the nation. People who believe they have been harmed by housing discrimination can file complaints with HUD by calling 1-800-669-9777 or by filing a complaint with HUD over the Internet.

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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