Families Forced to Pay for Children to Play

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced that it is charging an Andover, Massachusetts, condominium association, a property management company, and two individuals with discriminating against families with children. HUD accuses Property Management of Andover, Inc., and its property manager, and Stonecleave Village Association, and its president, with unlawfully charging fees to parents for allowing their children to play in the common area.

The Fair Housing Act expressly prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of family status. In addition, HUD is accusing the respondents of retaliating against families by charging them $437.50 for the Association’s attorney fees for pursuing a discrimination complaint.

“These charges point to a disturbing practice where families were literally expected to pay to play,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “It’s clearly illegal to impose different rules and restrictions on families with children and then to retaliate against them should they complain about their mistreatment. HUD is deeply committed to protecting fair housing rights and making sure that housing providers understand the law.”

HUD’s charge is in response to the complaints of four families living at Stonecleave Village. Alleging that it received numerous complaints about loud behavior and playing of organized sports in the common area, the condo association’s board designated a field in the rear of the complex for the children to play. The families were then informed that they were being fined $10 a day for two days for children playing in the common area, $10 a day for two days for allegedly causing damage, $25 to reimburse for the damage and $437.50 for attorney fees. Prior to this, the families had not received any fines or warning, and when an adult resident was having a party on the common grounds, no fine was issued.

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 may award damages to the complainants for their damages 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. A federal district court judge may also award punitive damages to the complainant.

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). Additional information is available at www.hud.gov/fairhousing.

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