HUD CHARGES WISCONSIN PROPERTY OWNERS WITH DISCRIMINATING AGAINST SINGLE MOTHER AND HER SON
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it is charging James and Julia Norton, a couple who owns rental property in Brown County, Wisconsin, with violating the Fair Housing Act for allegedly establishing different terms for a single mother’s tenancy, including requiring her to be at home when her teenage son had visitors. HUD’s charge also claims that the Nortons’ lease agreement included policies and rules restricting and imposing limitations on families with children.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to rent to families with children, express a preference or otherwise discriminate or impose different rules and restrictions on families with children.
“Treating families with children differently from other tenants is against the law,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue to take action against property owners who violate the Fair Housing Act by imposing extra burdens on families because they have children.”
According to HUD’s charge, shortly after James Norton accepted her deposit and informed the mother that she had been approved for an apartment, he sought to impose an additional requirement that she promise to be present at home when her 17-year-old son had visitors. Unwilling to agree to this new requirement, the mother alleges that she was denied the apartment. HUD’s investigation found that around the time the mother and her son had planned to move in, the Nortons rented a unit to two elderly tenants without children.
In addition, HUD alleges that the Nortons published statements in their lease agreements that singled out families with children for burdensome restrictions. For example, the lease stated, “No children are allowed to play in the common areas of the building,” and threatened $100 fines and eviction for violations.
HUD’s 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).