HUD CHARGES NEW HAMPSHIRE LANDLORD FOR REFUSING TO RENT TO FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN
Mother of Two Alleges Owner Challenged Her to “Turn Him In”
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today announced that it is charging the owner of a five-unit apartment building in Lebanon, NH, with violating the Fair Housing Act for allegedly refusing to rent one of the building’s three residential units to families with children. HUD is bringing the charge on behalf of a mother with two children, who alleged that the owner, Robert Gerow, dared her to “turn him in” when she protested that his refusal to rent to children was unlawful.
HUD’s charge also alleges that the owner’s receptionist violated the Fair Housing Act when she, following the owner’s instructions, told potential renters and the mother of two that the owner did not want to rent to families with children.
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to refuse to rent to families with children.
“For more than two decades, the Fair Housing Act has made it illegal to discriminate against families with children,” said John Trasvina, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Yet, some housing providers believe they can turn away families with children with impunity. In carrying out its legal responsibilities, HUD makes clear: If you engage in discrimination, expect HUD to enforce the law.”
According to the charge, Robert Gerow advertised in West Lebanon’s Valley News seeking a renter for a two-bedroom apartment above his chiropractic office. Gerow allegedly instructed his receptionist to tell callers he did not want children in the apartment.
When the mother of two called and spoke directly to Gerow, he reiterated the restriction. HUD’s charge alleges that when the woman told him that his restriction was against the law, Gerow told her to “turn him in” and hung up.
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 aggrieved persons for the damages caused them by 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 fines in order to vindicate the public interest. 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).