National property management company
accused of discrimination
Testing shows systemic discrimination by TGM Associates against families with children
November 12, 2014 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC), the Connecticut Fair Housing Center (CFHC), and the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI) announced that they have filed a fair housing complaint against TGM Associates, a New York-based property management company that owns and operates apartment complexes throughout the United States. The groups allege that TGM has engaged in systemic discrimination against families with children across five properties evaluated in three states.
“It’s been over 20 years since the federal Fair Housing Act was amended to protect families from discrimination,” said Amy Nelson, FHCCI’s executive director. “It’s disappointing and frustrating that we still find housing providers enacting written policies to prevent families with children from enjoying their right to equal housing.”
In the filed complaint, TGM Associates is alleged to have a stated occupancy standard of no more than two people per bedroom in each apartment, regardless of the unit’s square footage or whether that unit has a den, office, loft, or other feature that could provide an additional bedroom or living area for a child. TGM enforces this policy without regard to local health codes that state the square footage required for each occupant. In every property evaluated by the fair housing groups, TGM was found to have denied housing to families with children despite the apartments having ample square footage allowed by local codes for the family size.
MVFHC, CFHC, and FHCCI conducted a joint systemic investigation into the five TGM properties located in their respective states. The complaint alleges that every apartment complex that was evaluated was found to have unlawfully refused to rent units to families with children. Such overly restrictive occupancy standards impact the ability of families with children to find affordable, safe housing in neighborhoods of their choice.
“Often, investigations into housing discrimination uncover subtle and difficult to detect unlawful behavior,” stated Erin Kemple, CFHC’s executive director. “Each test performed at a TGM property, however, ended in a clear and blatant statement from an employee that a family with children was not permitted to rent the unit that they had inquired about. This is not only unacceptable; it’s illegal.”
The properties named in the complaint are TGM Waterford Commons in Manchester, Connecticut; TGM Avalon Lake, TGM Shadeland Station, and TGM Autumn Woods in Indianapolis, Indiana; and TGM Meadow View in Columbus, Ohio.
“Where a family lives dictates the parents’ access to employment, the children’s access to good schools, and the family’s access to grocery stores, healthcare, and other vital services,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s president and CEO. “TGM Associates’ refusal to rent to families with children is a deliberate denial of their right to choose the community that best serves their needs.”
HUD awards three-year grant to MVFHC
Grant enables continuation of fair housing enforcement activities
October 15, 2014 — Through its Fair Housing Initiatives Program, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded a three-year private enforcement initiative grant to the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC). The grant will run through December 2017 and will be funded at $325,000 per year.
The grant enables the continuation of fair housing enforcement activities provided by MVFHC in the Dayton MSA (Montgomery, Greene, Miami and Preble counties), including helping people who feel they have faced housing discrimination by investigating and filing complaints with the Dayton Human Relations Council, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and/or HUD; documenting evidence of systemic discrimination through testing in rental, sales and accessibility design/construction; and providing education instructing people on how to recognize and report housing discrimination as well as racial or sexual harassment.
HUD has more information about the FY2014 FHIP grants on its website.
HUD announces $5 million Wells Fargo settlement
after complaints of discrimination against women on maternity leave
October 9, 2014 — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it has reached a $5 million settlement with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, the nation’s largest provider of home mortgage loans, resolving allegations that the lender discriminated against women who were pregnant, or had recently given birth, and were on maternity leave. Under its authority to enforce the Fair Housing Act, HUD has conducted an intensive campaign to end maternity leave-related discrimination. Since 2010, 190 maternity leave discrimination complaints have been filed with HUD, resulting in more than 40 settlements for a total of nearly $1.5 million prior to today’s settlement.
“The settlement is significant for the six families who had the courage to file complaints and for countless other families who will no longer fear losing out on a home simply because they are expecting a baby,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro.”
Wells Fargo will distribute a total of $165,000 among six affected families and will create a fund with at least $3.5 million to compensate other applicants who experienced discrimination because they were pregnant or on maternity leave when they applied for a loan. Wells Fargo will also change its underwriting guidelines for evaluating mortgage loan applications from those on maternity leave, ensuring the guidelines are not discriminatory.
The full press release is available on HUD’s website.
CFPB orders U.S. Bank to pay $48 million
to consumers illegally billed for services not received
Approximately 420,000 consumers unfairly charged
for identity protection “add-on” products to receive full refunds
September 25, 2014 — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is ordering U.S. Bank to provide an estimated $48 million in relief to consumers harmed by illegal billing practices. U.S. Bank consumers were unfairly charged for certain identity protection and credit monitoring services that they did not receive. These services were sold as “add-on products” for credit cards and other bank
products such as mortgage loans and checking accounts. U.S. Bank will also pay a $5 million civil penalty to the CFPB and a $4 million penalty to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
“Today’s action will provide $48 million in relief to U.S. Bank customers who were illegaly charged for identity protection services they did not receive,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We have consistently warned companies about practices related to add-on products, and we will do what is necessary to prevent further harm to consumers.”
The full text of the consent order is available on the CFPB website.
“Tot Lot” on Weaver Street opens
Playground project received Quality of Life grant from Inclusive Community Fund
September 19, 2014 — A new playground that was partly funded by a Quality of Life grant from MVFHC’s Inclusive Community Fund has officially opened. The “Tot Lot” in Dayton’s Miami Chapel neighborhood was coordinated by the Southwest Priority Board and was the dream of neighborhood activist Pat Rickman.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony featured speakers including Mrs. Rickman, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, Dayton school board member Hazel Roundtree, and MVFHC’s Director of Investigations and Enforcement Anita Schmaltz. Neighborhood school kids attended the ceremony and broke in the playground as soon as the ribbon was cut.
Thanks to Dayton photographer Andy Snow for providing photos of the event.
September 2014 newsletter now available
Download our September newsletter!
The latest edition of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center’s newsletter is now available to download.
The newsletter has information about MVFHC’s 10th annual Waikiki Party Fundraiser wrap-up, MVFHC receives The 2014 Partner of the Year award, Banks and Fannie Mae vendors discriminate against communities of color by failing to maintain and market foreclosures, and HUD confirms that SB 349 sets up conflict in state and federal law.
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HUD confirms that SB 349 sets up conflict in state and federal law
Ohio Civil Rights Commission pans bill
The Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) received confirmation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that the proposed Ohio Senate Bill 349 would throw Ohio law out of kilter with federal law and “jeopardize the substantial equivalence of the Ohio [fair housing] act.” The shift would force Ohio to forego $1 million in federal funds for investigation and enforcement of discrimination cases, and it would require both landlords and tenants to use the more expensive
and cumbersome federal channels to process discrimination complaints.
SB 349 was introduced by Sen. Seitz (R-Cincinnati) in late June. It has not yet been assigned to a committee, though advocates are actively opposing it on the grounds that it “undermines civil rights and fair housing protections in Ohio,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO.
“It’s in the best interest of all of us to oppose legislation that would make it more difficult to challenge those who would discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, ancestry, military status and/or familial status,” McCarthy said. “Ohio doesn’t need a law that turns back the clock on discrimination.”
The bill would reduce the consequences of housing discrimination by lowering and capping the punitive damages that guilty landlords would have to pay. It would discourage victims from filing a complaint by making them liable for the attorney’s fees of the party they accuse of discrimination if there is not enough evidence to prove their case. Also, Ohio would lose crucial HUD funds to go after those who violate fair housing laws in Ohio.
Ohio and 37 other states have fair housing laws that are considered “substantially equivalent” to federal law. In her letter to OCRC, Lynn M. Grosso, Director of HUD’s Office of Enforcement, noted that because the bill conflicts with federal law on several important points, Ohio would lose that designation.
Grosso wrote: “Based on our general review, because SB 349 would exempt owners of single-family homes from prohibited acts, reduce the coverage of single family dwellings under the law, limit and cap the availability of damages and penalties in the administrative process, prohibit damage awards to fair housing agencies and deter aggrieved persons from filing discrimination complaints, enactment of SB 349 presents significant inconsistencies with federal requirements for substantial equivalency and will jeopardize the continued participation and receipt of federal funding by the State through the Fair Housing Assistance Program.”
“This bill is not just bad for tenants, it’s bad for landlords too,” said Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. “If Ohio were to lose its substantial equivalency it would force the complaint process into the federal arena, where everything is more cumbersome and expensive. It’ll make it harder on everyone.”
Earlier this summer in a letter to Sen. Seitz, OCRC sketched a dark image of housing reality under SB 349: “Touted as a bill to amend damages and fees,” OCRC wrote, “this legislation, if passed, would legally immunize small landlords, allowing them to tell potential renters or buyers, I am not going to [sell] or [rent] my home to you because you are: Black…female…Hispanic…blind…Jewish…a soldier…pregnant. We are certain this was not the drafters’ intent, but it will undoubtedly be the impact.”
For more information about how SB 349 would harm Ohioans, visit Fight349.org.
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