Landlords allegedly discriminated against families with childrenWASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it has charged Chicago landlords Martin and Mary Giarelli with housing discrimination for allegedly refusing to rent to families with children and making discriminatory statements. The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination based on a person’s family status.
The case was initially brought to HUD by Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs (IHCNS), a Fair Housing Initiatives Program agency that conducts fair housing testing activities in suburbs north of Chicago. In response to a complaint it received about one of the Giarelli’s one-bedroom apartments in the city of Highwood, IHCNS conducted several fair housing tests to determine if the Giarellis discriminated against families with children.
In January 2007, IHCNS testers posing as single mothers with one child were told that the apartment was very small and only suitable for one person. Those testers were not offered the opportunity to view the unit. On the other hand, testers who posed as single or married apartment seekers with no children were afforded an opportunity to view the apartment. At no time were the married testers told that the unit was too small for two adults. In fact, the Giarellis allegedly told one tester who posed as a single renter, “We want to make sure we have a quiet environment; no children, no smoking, and no pets.”
After IHCN referred the case to HUD, the Department conducted a follow-up investigation and found that the Giarellis’ actions did constitute housing discrimination.
“When you discriminate against families with children, you rob them of the ability to secure safe and affordable housing that all Americans should have,” said Kim Kendrick, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO). “Landlords must follow the requirements of the Fair Housing Act and understand that discriminating against people because they have children is against the law.”
Housing discrimination charges heard before an administrative law judge carry a maximum civil penalty of $16,000 for a first offense, in addition to actual damages for each complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorney’s fees. Sanctions can be more severe if a respondent has a history of housing discrimination. Parties also have the right to elect to have their cases heard in federal district court.
FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate approximately 10,000 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 at www.hud.gov/fairhousing. Stay on top of the most up-to-date news regarding the Fair Housing Act by signing up for the FHEO RSS Feed.
HUD is the nation’s housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development and enforces the nation’s fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov.