Friday, September 16, 2016

ACLU Lawsuit Accuses City Agencies Of Pressuring Landlord Into Giving Tenant The Boot For Making Too Many Calls To Police; Evicted Renter Now Having Trouble Finding Another Apartment, Fears Losing Section 8 Housing Subsidy Voucher

In Burlington, Vermont, the Burlington Free Press reports:
  • A Burlington resident says in a federal lawsuit that he has been evicted from his Church Street apartment after he called the police department too many times.

    Joe Montagno, a former resident of 184 Church Street, has been unable to find another apartment and might lose his Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Burlington. His lawyer, Jay Diaz of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, said Montagno spent Wednesday night in a shelter and most likely will continue living in a shelter for "the forseeable future."

    Montagno alleges the Burlington Police Department and Code Enforcement Office kept track of his calls and pressured his landlord, Joe Handy, into evicting him. Handy, through his secretary, said he was "not interested" in commenting.

    According to the lawsuit, Montagno is afraid to call the police at all.

    "Mr. Montagno requested BPD assistance on numerous occasions to report threats of bodily harm to his person, burglary, and other potentially criminal or hazardous occurrences," the lawsuit states. "Mr. Montagno is unaware of any policies, rules, regulations or laws stating when it is or is not appropriate to contact the BPD for assistance."
    Diaz, the ACLU lawyer, maintains that Montagno was punished without due process, and city agencies pinpointed him in an arbitrary manner.

    "No one would assume that calling for help with whatever problem they have is going to get them evicted," Diaz said. "We don't want people here to be unsafe."

    Montagno on several occasions worried that calling the police would result in punishment. In several instances, Montagno did not call the police "when his safety or the safety of others might be in jeopardy," the lawsuit states.

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