HUD Charges Pennsylvania Landlords with Discrimination After Posting Online Anti-Family Classified Ad

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced that it is charging the owners and operators of two apartment buildings in Altoona, Pennsylvania with violating the Fair Housing Act by posting online classified ads that discriminate against families with children.

The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against families with children and pregnant women, including unlawfully denying or limiting housing, making discriminatory statements, or imposing discriminatory rules or policies.

“No family should be denied the opportunity to rent a home simply because they have children,” said Anna Maria Farías, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Today’s enforcement action reaffirms HUD’s commitment to make sure housing providers meet their obligations to treat all applicants fairly, regardless of whether they have kids or not.”

The case came to HUD’s attention when the Fair Housing Partnership of Greater Pittsburgh, a local HUD-assisted fair housing organization, filed a complaint alleging that the owners and managers of the Altoona properties repeatedly violated the Fair Housing Act by running ads on Craigslist that discriminate against families with children. One ad for a two-bedroom unit read: “Not suitable for children/pets.”

After the online ad was posted, the Fair Housing Partnership of Greater Pittsburgh conducted fair housing tests to determine if the landlords intended to reserve apartments at the property exclusively to people without children, as advertised. One tester, posing as a married man with a pregnant wife and a three-year-old son, was told by the owner that he would not show him the unit because it “wouldn’t work out for either of us.” A second tester, posing as a man with no children, was told by the owner that the unit would be available in a week. A third tester, posing as a married woman with a child, was told that having children was a problem because the unit is located above the leasing office and children would make noise and because there is no yard. Three additional tests also revealed the owner demonstrated a preference for renting to applicants who did not have children.

HUD’s charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party elects for the case to be heard in federal court.  If the administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages to the complainant for his or her loss as a result of the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose civil penalties in order to vindicate the public interest.

CLICK HERE to read HUD’s charge.