Sunday, March 29, 2015

Civil Rights Feds Muscle Homeowner's Association Into Settling Fair Housing Charges Alleging Use Of Overly-Restrictive Policies Unlawfully Restricting Access By Kids To Common Areas, Amenities; Six Victimized Families To Slice Up $100K Pie While Feds "Wet Beak" By Pocketing $10K

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.) (via Fair Housing Defense blog):
  • The Department of Justice [] announced a settlement agreement between the United States, the Greenbrier Village Homeowner’s Association Inc. (Greenbrier), Gassen Company Inc. (Gassen) and an individual Gassen employee to resolve a lawsuit filed on Nov. 25, 2013.

    The lawsuit alleged that Greenbrier and Gassen unlawfully discriminated against residents with children by issuing and enforcing rules regarding the use of common areas at the Condominiums of Greenbrier Village. The settlement includes a commitment from Greenbrier to establish a new non-discrimination policy in accordance with the Fair Housing Act, pay a $10,000 penalty to the United States and pay $100,000 to six families that suffered as a result of the discrimination.

    “The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from discriminating against families with children,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “This means more than just allowing those families to live at the property. It means giving these families fair access to the common areas and amenities.”

    “Housing discrimination has no place in Minnesota,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger of the District of Minnesota. “This case reaffirms the long-held principle of our civil rights laws that families come in all shapes and sizes. Arbitrary rules that restrict the rights of children to enjoy the places where they live are not acceptable.”

    Families with children have the right to live in condos that don’t meet federal requirements to qualify as housing for older persons,” said HUD Assistant Secretary Gustavo Velasquez for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD is sending a clear message to homeowners associations and management companies that they must comply with the Fair Housing Act.”

    According to the settlement agreement and documents filed in court, Greenbrier and Gassen allegedly engaged in a pattern of discrimination by creating and enforcing rules in a manner that prevented children from equal enjoyment of common areas and making statements that indicated a preference against families with children. The United States alleged that the defendants required children to be supervised at all times when in a common area, prohibited or unreasonably restricted children from using the common areas and selectively enforced the common area rules by issuing warnings and violation notices to residents with children, but not to adult residents engaging in the same activities.

    According to the settlement agreement, at least six families suffered as a result of Greenbrier and Gassen’s alleged discrimination. Greenbrier agreed to a financial settlement with each of the families, totaling $100,000. Greenbrier will also adopt and implement a new anti-discrimination policy, its board members and staff will undergo training on the Fair Housing Act, with a specific emphasis on discrimination on the basis of familial status, and Greenbrier will pay a civil penalty to the United States.

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