WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that it has charged the co-owners of a Philadelphia condominium apartment, and their tenant, with unlawful discrimination in refusing to rent to families with children. HUD alleges that the owners and the tenant violated the Fair Housing Act when the tenant posted an advertisement on craigslist.com, stating "No dogs or children," and subsequently refused to rent to a tester posing as an applicant with a child.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits a housing provider from discriminating against families with children unless the housing meets certain requirements for housing for older persons. Property owners are liable for the discriminatory acts of their agents.
According to HUD’s charge, apartment owners Leslie Wood and Joseph Trabaccone allowed their tenants, Katherine Lohre and her husband, to end their lease early, as long as they found someone else to rent the apartment. The charge further alleges that Lohre, with the approval of one of the owners, placed an ad for the one-bedroom apartment at 134 N. 21st Street on the website, craigslist.com. The ad stated "No dogs or children." A tester from the Fair Housing Council of Suburban Philadelphia, Inc., a HUD-funded fair housing agency, responded to the ad and informed Lohre that she had a four-year-old child. Hearing this, Lohre allegedly told the tester that the owners lived in the building and would not approve a family. The apartment was eventually rented to a single woman with no children.
"Finding suitable housing is challenging enough in today’s economy. The last thing families need is to be told that certain homes are off limits to them because they have children," said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO). "Families with children are just as entitled to exercise their housing options as anyone else, and HUD will protect that right."
The HUD charge 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 discrimination has occurred, he or she may award damages to the complainant for its loss as a result of the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose civil penalties in order to vindicate the public interest. If the case is heard in federal count, the judge may also award punitive damages to the complainant.
FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate approximately 10,500 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 800-669-9777 (voice), 800-927-9275 (TTY). Additional information is available online.