HUD No. 08-102
July 11, 2008
HUD CHARGES PUERTO RICO HOMEOWNER ASSOCIATION WITH DISCRIMINATING AGAINST DISABLED HOMEOWNER
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it charged a homeowner association in Puerto Rico with housing discrimination for refusing to permit a disabled man to have support railings in the front of his home.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to deny persons with disabilities reasonable accommodations or the right to make reasonable modifications to a dwelling when the accommodations or modifications are necessary for them to fully enjoy their homes.
HUD alleges that the Palacios de Rio II, Inc., Homeowner Association and Desarrolladora del Rio, Inc., located in Toa Alto, PR, demanded that Victor Rolon-Cruz remove support railings that were professionally installed to allow him easier access to his single-family home and to prevent potential injury. Mr. Cruz, who is 74-years-old, suffers from several medical conditions that impair his mobility and require him to use a cane to walk.
Shortly after the support railings were installed, Cruz received a notice from the Homeowner Association to immediately remove the railings because they allegedly did not comply with the Association's construction rules. Even after Cruz's daughter responded to the Association by a letter explaining how a fall could be fatal to her father, the Association still insisted that the support railings be removed and threatened the family with legal action.
"Fair housing laws apply equally to condominium communities and single family homes," said Kim Kendrick, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO). "When a homeowner association refuses to permit a reasonable accommodation, they take away the disabled property owner's ability to safely enjoy their home."
The HUD charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages to each complainant for actual loss as a result of the 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, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition to damages payable to the complainant, the judge may impose a civil penalty in order to vindicate the public interest. In the event of an election, a federal district court judge may also award punitive damages to a prevailing complainant.
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 (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.