Federal judge orders Marion County landlord to pay over $200,000 in fair housing lawsuit
Indianapolis — The Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI) announces a ruling in a fair housing case addressing disability and familial status discrimination by an Indianapolis landlord. The FHCCI and Carolyn McGuffin, represented by attorneys from Indiana Disability Rights and Brancart & Brancart, previously filed a lawsuit against Carolyn Smitley and the Smitley Family Trust in April 2016 alleging that the Defendants discriminated against Ms. McGuffin in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. Last week, on July 3, 2018, Judge William T. Lawrence in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana entered judgment requiring the Defendants to pay $219,747.75 as a result of the discrimination.
The lawsuit alleged that around August 2015, Ms. McGuffin was recovering from an illness under a physician's care while living in an apartment owned and managed by Ms. Smitley. Ms. Smitley repeatedly entered Ms. McGuffin's apartment without notice or permission for the sole purpose of demanding that Ms. McGuffin vacate her home. Ms. Smitley made explicit discriminatory statements to Ms. McGuffin, such as: “I don't want you living here in a hospital bed”; that Ms. McGuffin should be “in a facility” or “in a nursing home” and that she was “too sick to live here.”
“I desperately wish Ms. McGuffin was alive today to know that she won in this difficult fight for her fair housing rights,” stated Amy Nelson, Executive Director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana. “Having worked with her for several months, I know the stress she endured due to these discriminatory acts that further emphasized the problem for so many in our community in finding safe, affordable, accessible housing free from unlawful discrimination.”
In addition to compensatory damages to the FHCCI and Ms. McGuffin's estate, Judge Lawrence found that punitive damages were appropriate as “[t]he evidence presented at the hearing established that the Defendants consciously and intentionally discriminated against [Ms.] McGuffin or, at a minimum, acted with reckless disregard of [Ms.] McGuffin's rights.”
“I am extremely pleased that Judge Lawrence not only recognized the damage caused by Ms. Smitley's actions but also chose to award punitive damages in this case,” states Dawn Adams, Executive Director of Indiana Disability Rights. “This landlord preyed upon our client through her intimidation and bullying tactics. Ms. McGuffin was in dire fear of being thrown out on the streets, a stressful situation for anyone let alone for someone with serious health concerns. We are grateful to have partnered with FHCCI on this issue so that we could work together for justice.”
MVFHC and 19 fair housing organizations, and two homeowners in Maryland charge Bank of America and Safeguard Properties Management with violating the Federal Fair Housing Act
June 26, 2018 — The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) announced a lawsuit resulting from a multi-year investigation undertaken by NFHA and its fair housing agency partners. In June 2009, NFHA notified Bank of America of maintenance problems that appeared to violate the Fair Housing Act. NFHA met with Bank of America officials for more than a year and offered recommendations to ensure proper treatment of its homes in communities of color. However, after seeing absolutely no improvement in routine exterior maintenance of Bank of America-owned homes in communities of color, NFHA began a multi-year, multi-city systemic investigation. Bank of America was put on notice multiple times since 2009, including the filing of a HUD housing discrimination complaint against it and publication of three reports documenting the nationwide problem of poor maintenance of bank-owned homes in communities of color.
Lisa Rice, President and CEO of NFHA said, “Bank of America and Safeguard’s intentional failure to correct their discriminatory treatment in African American and Latino neighborhoods–the same communities hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis–is systemic racism. The purposeful neglect of bank-owned homes in communities of color devalues the properties and the lives of the families in the neighborhoods around them. The health and safety hazards created by these blighted bank-owned homes negatively affect the residents, especially the children, living nearby. We have asked Bank of America and Safeguard to provide the same standard of routine exterior maintenance and marketing for all of its bank-owned homes, regardless of the age, value, or racial composition of the neighborhood in which they are located.”
Nationwide, the data shows that:
- 45 percent of the Bank of America properties in communities of color had 10 or more maintenance or marketing deficiencies, while only 11 percent of the Bank of America properties in predominantly white neighborhoods had 10 or more maintenance or marketing deficiencies.
- 64 percent of the Bank of America properties in communities of color had trash or debris visible on the property, while only 31 percent of the Bank of America properties in predominantly white neighborhoods had trash visible on the property.
- 37 percent of the Bank of America properties in communities of color had unsecured or broken doors, while only 16 percent of the Bank of America properties in predominantly white neighborhoods had unsecured or broken doors.
- 49.6 percent of the Bank of America properties in communities of color had damaged, boarded, or unsecured windows, while only 23.5 percent of the Bank of America properties in white neighborhoods had damaged, boarded or unsecured windows.
Previous news items are available here.
Resources and useful links
If you shop at Amazon.com, did you know that by shopping instead at smile.amazon.com you can direct 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to the charity of your choice?
MVFHC is an eligible charity, and we’d appreciate your support. Designate MVFHC as your Amazon Smile charity today.
Copies of special reports such as Analyses of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice released by local jurisdictions as well as other reports done by MVFHC on zoning and predatory lending are available on the reports
HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton
The Home Ownership Center
is a non-profit organization that empowers local residents to achieve and sustain homeownership and financial success. They’ve helped thousands of individuals and families meet their homeownership goals through a variety of services offered at low or no cost. You can reach the HomeOwnership Center at 937-853-1600
Fair Housing webinars
In conjunction with the Greater Dayton Apartment Association, MVFHC is offering one-hour fair housing webinars on the second Wednesday
of every other month in 2018 (odd months). For more information, visit our GDAA webinar page
Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST
is an initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that promotes compliance with the Fair Housing Act design and construction requirements. Visit www.fairhousingfirst.org
for instruction programs and useful online resources.
Additional Landlord/Tenant info
Also, if you are a landlord or a tenant wanting information on your rights and duties under Ohio law, the Dayton-Montgomery County Ombudsman's Office has a page about landlord/tenant issues
Mobile Home Park residents
rights and responsibilities
A booklet outlining your rights and responsibilities when renting mobile homes or lots in mobile home parks is available on the Ohio Legal Services website
Equal Housing Opportunity usage guidelines
on the usage of the "Equal Housing Opportunity" logo and slogan are available online in the Services/Reference section.
Fair Housing Advertising Word and Phrase List
A word and phrase list
intended as a guideline to assist in complying with state and federal fair housing laws is available online in the Services/Reference section.
Reasonable Modifications and Accommodations
Have questions about what your rights or responsibilities are under the federal Fair Housing Act for persons with disabilities? Now available online in the Services/Reference section are joint statements from the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development that explain reasonable modifications
Service Animal Policy
A Service Animal Policy
is now available available online in the Services/Reference section. The policy explains what service animals are and how they are a reasonable accommodation under the Federal Fair Housing Act and also provides practice guidelines for housing providers
and for tenants
is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. To learn how you can save money in your home, visit www.energystar.gov