HUD CHARGES MASSACHUSETTS LANDLORD WITH DISCRIMINATING AGAINST FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN Springfield landlord cited lead paint as basis for denying apartment to families with children
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it is charging Craig Robbins, a Springfield, Massachusetts landlord, with violating the Fair Housing Act for allegedly refusing to rent or show an apartment to families with children because he claimed he did not have certification that the apartment was free of lead-based paint.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from discriminating against families with children. Except where housing satisfies the Act’s “housing for older persons” exemption, property owners may not indicate a preference against families with children in advertising, or discourage families with children from applying for housing.
“Landlords must disclose the presence of lead paint in housing units and, under Massachusetts law must remove it. They may not, however, use the existence of lead paint as an excuse not to rent to families with children,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
According to HUD’s charge, Robbins first advertised the available one-bedroom apartment on craigslist.org, stating a preference for “working singles/college grad.” In response to the ad, the Housing Discrimination Project, a HUD-supported fair housing group, sent in testers to determine whether Robbins was discriminating against families with children. The testers found that when they called to ask about the advertised apartment, Robbins repeatedly refused to show the unit once he learned that young children would also be occupying the apartment, claiming he did not have a “lead free certificate.” When asked if he would consider obtaining a certificate, Robbins refused, and in one case, allegedly hung up the phone.
HUD, in publicly-released guidance on the investigation of Fair Housing Act cases and in the preamble to a 1999 regulation on lead-based hazards, makes clear that using the presence of lead-based paint as an excuse to refuse to rent to families with children is illegal. While a property owner may tell families of the danger of moving into a unit that has not been remediated for lead paint, an owner may not refuse to allow a family to occupy the unit because of the presence of a child.
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 aggrieved persons 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 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.