Sunday, April 10, 2016

Civil Rights Feds, Fair Housing Testers Shake $130K Out Of Another Landlord Bagged For Allegedly Discriminating By Refusal To Allow Families w/ Children To Live In 173-Lot Mobile Home Park

In Crown Point, Indiana, the Northwest Indiana Times reports:
  • The owner and leasing agent of a Crown Point mobile home park are expected to pay $130,000 to settle a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit alleging they refused to allow families with children to live at the 173-lot facility.

    The lawsuit, filed in May 2015, alleged that Gentle Manor Estates LLC and John Townsend, the leasing agent for the property, refused to allow families to live at Gentle Manor Estates, 1350 E. North St. The allegations were based on evidence gathered through the Justice Department's Fair Housing Testing Program, in which individuals pose as renters to gather information about possible discriminatory practices.

    According to the Justice Department, the corporate owner and agent have agreed to the settlement that still has to be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants will pay $100,000 into a fund to compensate victims of discrimination and an additional $30,000 to the government as a civil penalty.

    In addition, the defendants would be required to implement a nondiscriminatory policy, establish new nondiscriminatory application and rental procedures and undergo training on the Fair Housing Act.
    Shortly after the lawsuit was filed last year, Townsend said the park has always been a retirement community for older adults and contended the alleged violation was a technical one. He also said at the time there were no complaints from the park's residents themselves.

    According to the lawsuit, testers working for the government were told by Townsend that Gentle Manor required all residents to be 40 years old to live at the property and children were not allowed to live there.

    If a housing community qualifies under the Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995 as housing for older persons, it is exempt from the prohibition against discrimination on the basis of familial status, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In order to qualify, however, at least 80 percent of the housing must be occupied by at least one person 55 or older per unit and the owner must adhere to policies and procedures that demonstrate an intent to provide housing for persons 55 or older.

    Around the time the lawsuit was filed, Townsend contended that 80 percent of the residents were older than 55, but the park's policy allows people 40 and older to rent at the park.

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