|HUD No. 11-243
October 6, 2011
HUD CHARGES MINNESOTA PROPERTY OWNER, MANAGER WITH DISCRIMINATING AGAINST ELDERLY COUPLE
Manager pressured couple to move to assisted living even though they were able to live independently
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is charging a Foley, Minnesota property owner, manager, and management company with violating the Fair Housing Act for forcing an elderly couple to vacate their apartment because of the manager's perception that they were unable to care for themselves. HUD brings the charge on behalf of the couple, alleging that Big Norway, LLC, Northern Management Real Estate Services, Inc., and its employee, Laura Schroden, pressured the couple to move to an assisted living facility even though there was no evidence that the couple was a safety threat to themselves or to others.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing because of a person's perceived disability.
"Seniors should not be forced to leave their homes because someone stereotypes them as being unable to live independently," said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "It's not the role of property owners and managers to decide whether elderly persons can live on their own. HUD is committed to protecting the rights of seniors to make their own housing choices, free from discrimination."
According to HUD's charge, Northern Management's Vice President of Operations, Laura Schroden, contacted the couple's children and grandchildren multiple times in a campaign to pressure the couple to move out of the building. Big Norway, Northern Management, and Schroden cited the couple's "forgetfulness" and how easily they "would get agitated when involved in different situations" as evidence of management's belief that the couple "should be in assisted living." Schroden described the couple as "handicapped" even though there had been no incidents involving the couple's health or safety in their more than three years of tenancy at the apartment complex. The family, who visited frequently, maintained that the couple was still active and capable of living on their own: they managed their own bills, shopping, and laundry, and frequently babysat for their great-grandchildren. After one of the couple's complaints to management, Schroden allegedly told their grandson that they should move "right away or they may find themselves without housing."
Although the couple repeatedly informed management that they did not want to move and did not need help, after more than three months of pressure they moved to a townhouse in a senior community 20 miles away, where they could no longer visit frequently with their family. The couple continues to live independently.
The HUD Charge of Discrimination 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 illegal discrimination has occurred, the judge may award monetary damages to the families for the harm they were caused by the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose fines in order to vindicate the public interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages to the aggrieved persons.
FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate more than 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).
HUD's mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and http://espanol.hud.gov. You can also follow HUD on twitter @HUDgov, on facebook at www.facebook.com/HUD, or sign up for news alerts on HUD's News Listserv.