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HUD: Refusing Group Home Rentals Is Fair Housing Violation

Texas single-family landlords refused an applicant who wanted to create a group home for people with mental disabilities. HUD says that’s a fair housing violation.

WASHINGTON – The U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) charged the owners of several residential properties in Houston, Texas, with violating the Fair Housing Act because they refused to rent a house to an application who wanted to use it as a group home for persons with mental disabilities.

“Rental property owners do not have the right to unlawfully deny housing based on their perceptions about persons with disabilities,” says Demetria McCain, HUD’s principal deputy assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity. “HUD remains committed to taking action whenever individuals in a position to control access to housing fail to meet their responsibility to comply with the nation’s housing laws.”

A Texas Health and Human Services Commission contractor who provides housing and related services for persons with severe mental disabilities filed a complaint with HUD. In the complaint, she alleges that she was denied the opportunity to rent a single-family home because her clients have mental disabilities. In HUD’s charge, filed on behalf of the woman, she alleges that the owner stated to her: “[O]ur neighborhood does not want those type of people. We are trying to get them out of our neighborhood.”

“The Fair Housing Act affords all persons the opportunity to enjoy housing free from discrimination, including people with mental disabilities who are in need of the safe and stable environment a group home can provide,” says Damon Smith, HUD’s General Counsel. “As this charge demonstrates, HUD will protect the rights of persons with disabilities to live in their communities, free from unlawful discrimination.”

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 determines that discrimination has occurred, they may award damages to the complainant for losses that have resulted from the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge has the ability to impose civil penalties. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from denying housing to persons with disabilities or subjecting them to discriminatory terms or conditions. HUD says this prohibition include rental property owners’ refusal to accept applicants of group homes that allow persons with disabilities to live in the community.

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