HUD Charges Wisconsin Landlords with Discriminating Against Families with Children

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently charged Chuck and Lynn Hietpas, the owners of a three-bedroom duplex in Kaukauna, WI, with discrimination for refusing to rent to a family because they have children..

The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to deny or limit housing because a family has children under the age of 18 and to make statements that discriminate against families with children.

“Denying rental opportunities to families simply because they have children not only robs them of the chance to obtain the housing they need, but it also violates the law,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue working to ensure that property owners and housing providers meet their obligation to treat all applicants the same.”

The case came to HUD’s attention when a couple filed a complaint alleging that their rental application was denied because they have five children. The rental unit is large enough for the family under the local code, and three of the children would have only lived there part time. HUD’s charge alleges that when the couple inquired about the status of their rental application, they were told one of the property owners was not comfortable with having five children living in the unit. The owners also allegedly told the couple they did not feel that the house would be cleaned properly and were concerned things would get damaged.

“Assuming that families with children make bad tenants is an unlawful stereotype,” said Paul Compton, HUD’s General Counsel. “When a housing provider refuses to rent to a family because the family has children, the refusal violates the Fair Housing Act.”

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 the judge finds that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages to the complainant for harm caused by 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 fines to vindicate the public interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages.

Click to read HUD’s Charge