WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced that it is charging a Monroe, New Hampshire, landlord with violating the Fair Housing Act for harassment of tenants who are an interethnic couple. According to HUD’s charge, landlord Lothar Riba told a female tenant that he didn’t think it was appropriate for her to be married to a “Spanish guy.”
HUD alleges that Riba harassed and threatened the family by monitoring and photographing their activity, removing their apartment’s window handles, and physically assaulting and injuring the wife. Riba allegedly told the wife that she should get her “monkey” family off of his property and that her Hispanic sister in-law could not visit, remarking, “If one comes, they all start coming like a bunch of cockroaches.”
“Ethnic harassment by landlords or housing providers is unacceptable and against the law,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Harassment victims are not alone in this fight to protect their rights. HUD works vigorously to eradicate discrimination.”
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on national origin, including making statements indicating a preference or limitation based on national origin, and engaging in conduct that threatens or intimidates tenants in the exercise of their rights protected under the Act.
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 family for its losses and order injunctive relief and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination. In addition, the judge may impose fines in order to vindicate the public interest and award attorney fees. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages to aggrieved persons.
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).