HUD No. 08-067
May 16, 2008
HUD CHARGES PENNSYLVANIA OWNERS WITH VIOLATING FAIR HOUSING ACT
Scranton property managers discriminated against families with children
WASHINGTON � The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it has charged the owner of Lofts at the Mill in Scranton, Pennsylvania, its leasing agent and property manager, and management company, Normandy Holdings, LLC, with violating the Fair Housing Act for refusing to rent to families with children by publishing discriminatory Internet and newspaper ads.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful for a housing provider to refuse to rent to families because they have children and to make, print or publish, in print or on-line, any statement or advertisement that states a preference for single people or couples without children.
A converted warehouse, Lofts at the Mill consists of 74 residential apartment units. Gerard Joyce is the owner and manager of the Lofts at the Mill and Normandy Holdings. During 2005 and 2006, the property manager ran several ads in newspapers and on the Internet, which advertised the property as "21 and over." After viewing these advertisements, a local fair housing group contacted Danny Joyce, the property manager, to inform him that the language violated the Fair Housing Act because it prohibits families with children from living or renting at the Mill. Despite this warning, Danny Joyce refused to change the advertising.
Upon learning of the discriminatory content of the advertisements, the Department of Housing and Urban Development exercised its authority to initiate complaints when no individual came forward to file a complaint. As part of its investigation, HUD utilized undercover testers to determine whether the mangers refused to rent to families with children.
Mr. Joyce told one tester, "I just want to let you know that if you decide to move in, your daughter will be the only child in here." Another tester was given a brochure that contained the statement, "The Mill is an apartment community catering to young professionals and all occupants must be twenty-one years or older." In March 2007 during an on-site interview with HUD, Danny Joyce confirmed that no children currently resided at the Mill, and that he personally informed potential applicants that they could not live at the Mill because of their children.
Attempts to settle the case were unsuccessful.
"Our message to all landlords is clear � discriminating against families with children is against the law," said Kim Kendrick, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO). "Owners must remember that families with children need safe and affordable housing, and to deny them that opportunity is illegal."
The HUD charge now goes before an administrative law judge who may award damages to each complainant for actual loss as a result of the alleged discrimination, as well as damages for emotional distress, humiliation, and loss of civil rights. The judge may also order injunctive and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination. Additionally, the judge may impose a maximum civil penalty of $16,000 for each violation for the first offense, in addition to actual damages for each complainant and order payment of attorneys' fees. Sanctions can be more severe if a respondent has a history of housing discrimination.
FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate approximately 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1 (800) 669-9777 (voice), (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Additional information is available at www.hud.gov/fairhousing. Stay on top of the most up-to-date news regarding the Fair Housing Act by signing up for the FHEO RSS Feed.
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development and enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet and espanol.hud.gov.