HUD charges Kent State University with housing discrimination
KSU refused to allow support animal in campus housing
August 19, 2014 — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it has charged Kent State University (KSU) in Kent, Ohio, and four KSU employees with housing discrimination for refusing to allow a student with disabilities to keep an emotional support animal in her campus apartment.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices when a person with a disability requires such an accommodation, including refusing to grant waivers to “no pet” policies for persons who use assistance or support animals.
“Many people with disabilities rely on therapy animals to enhance their quality of life,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “The Fair Housing Act protects their right to a service animal, and HUD is committed to taking action whenever the nation’s fair housing laws are violated.”
HUD’s charges stem from complaints filed by a KSU student and her husband and by Fair Housing Advocates Association (FHAA) of Akron, Ohio. A KSU psychologist documented the student’s disabilities and wrote a letter stating the best way for the student to cope with her disabilities was having a support animal. After KSU denied her request for a reasonable accommodation, the student and her husband moved to off-campus housing and contacted FHAA.
For more information, read the HUD press release and the HUD charge of discrimination.
DOJ obtains $100,000 settlement in
housing discrimination lawsuit against Cleveland landlord
August 14, 2014 — The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that the manager and owner of the Linden House Apartments in Cleveland have agreed to pay $100,000 to resolve allegations that they refused to rent to individuals who had children.
The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by DOJ on September 30, 2013, against the Zaremba Management Company, the Linden Apartment Company and a property manager who worked at Linden House. The DOJ alleged that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act by maintaining a policy of refusing to rent units at Linden House to families with children. It also alleged that the Linden House Apartments had a policy of evicting tenants or asking them to move if they had children while living at Linden House. While the Fair Housing Act under certain circumstances does allow housing reserved for older persons to limit residency to adults, Linden House did not meet the requirements for this exemption.
The settlement requires the defendants to pay $90,000 to the victims of their discriminatory actions and $10,000 in civil penalties to the United States. The settlement also requires the defendants to remove any restrictions on occupancy by families with children and to take steps including training employees and reporting to DOJO to ensure that such discrimination does not re-occur.
“Families deserve the legal right to live where they can afford, and DOJ will continue to protect them from housing discrimination,” said Steven M. Dettlebach, U.S. Attorney for the Northen District of Ohio.
The consent order between DOJ and Zaremba is available on the DOJ website.
CFPB orders Amerisave to pay $19.3 million
for bait-and-switch mortgage scheme
August 12, 2014 — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took action against Amerisave Mortgage Corporation, its affiliate Novo Appraisal Management Company, and the owner of both companies, Patrick Markert, for engaging in a deceptive bait-and-switch mortgage-lending scheme that harmed tens of thousands of consumers.
CFPB found that Amerisave lured consumers by advertising misleading interest rates, locked them in with costly up-front fees, failed to honor its advertised rates, and then illegally overcharged them for affiliated “third-party” services.
Amerisave and Novo must provide $14.8 million in refunds to the consumers harmed by the false advertising, impermissible fees, and illegal referrals during the period covered by the order. A third-party settlement administrator will contact eligible consumers once a restitution process has been established. In addition, Amerisave and Patrick Markert both will make penalty payments of $4.5 million and $1.5 million respectively to CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.
The full text of the consent order is available on the CFPB website.
Advocates outraged by “fundamentally un-American” Ohio Senate Bill 349
SB 349 would protect landlords who discriminate and
would jeopardize federal funding for Ohio Civil Rights Commission
July 28, 2014 — Today the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) and partners announced a campaign to oppose Ohio Senate Bill 349, introduced by Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) in late June. MVFHC and its partners denounce SB 349 as an attack on civil rights and an erosion of strong fair housing laws in Ohio.
The campaign’s website is fight349.org.
Among other regressive measures, the bill would lower the penalties for housing discrimination and damage the important safeguards provided by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC). Ohio residents would either need to use the administrative process provided on the federal level through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or be forced to use attorneys to sue violators in state court. In addition, Ohio law would no longer be “substantially equivalent” to federal law, thus ending substantial HUD funding to Ohio.
“SB 349 would rob Ohio of its substantial equivalent status and its ability to investigate and adjudicate housing discrimination claims on the state level,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO. “Proponents of SB 349 are just plain wrong if they believe that they will have an easier time complying with civil rights laws administered from the federal level as opposed to at the state level.”
Specifically, SB 349:
Sets up conflict between state and federal fair housing law, thereby stripping Ohio of the approximately $1 million that HUD annually provides to the OCRC to investigate discrimination cases. The housing law conflict would prohibit the OCRC from accessing Fair Housing Assistance Program dollars that support complaint processing, enforcement activities, training and other projects.
Diminishes the consequences of discrimination by lowering and capping the punitive damages that landlords found guilty of flagrant discrimination would have to pay.
Discourages victims of housing discrimination from filing a complaint to protect their rights 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.
Reduces legal challenges to discrimination by prohibiting state or local fair housing agencies from collecting actual or punitive damages.
Renders the OCRC unable to punish housing discrimination and forces cases into the more expensive and complex courts process.
Superficially mirrors some portions of federal law while gutting Ohio’s current protections from housing discrimination.
“SB 349 would significantly undercut the work of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and force housing discrimination complaints to the Federal level,” said Elizabeth Brown, Executive Director of Housing Opportunities Made Equal in Cincinnati. “Why would Ohio want to give up its control of civil rights issues? Does the real estate industry really think it is better off facing Federal investigators and Federal attorneys? This is not the time for the state of Ohio to gut its civil rights laws.”
Michael Marsh, President/CEO of Toledo Fair Housing Center, said, “SB 349 is a step backwards for Ohioans. Instead of ensuring equal opportunity, it renders civil rights laws virtually unenforceable within the Buckeye State and turns away $1M in annual funding from the federal government to enforce the fair housing laws. It is fundamentally un-American to deny equal opportunity to families with children and persons with disabilities. Senator Seitz should be ashamed, and Ohioans embarrassed, by his buffoonery.”
June 2014 newsletter now available
Download our June newsletter!
The latest edition of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center’s newsletter is now available to download.
The newsletter has information about MVFHC expanding into the Columbus area, our 10th Annual Waikiki Party Fundraiser, How to receive a $75 gift card to the Greater Dayton Recreation Center. Also included is the movie corner featuring Brick by Brick: A Civil Rights Story.
To receive new editions of the newsletter via e-mail, become a MVFHC member.
SunTrust agrees to pay $320 million to resolve criminal investigation into its HAMP program
SunTrust misled customers seeking relief through Home Affordable Modification Program
WASHINGTON, DC — The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia, the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced that a non-prosecution agreement with SunTrust Mortgage Inc. has been reached that resolves a criminal investigation of SunTrust’s administration of the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).
SunTrust has agreed to pay $320 million to resolve the investigation, to be divided as follows:
Restitution — SunTrust will pay $179 million to compensate borrowers for damage caused by its mismanagement of HAMP.
Forfeiture — SunTrust will pay $16 million to be available to law enforcement agencies working on mortgage fraud and other matters related to misuse of TARP funds.
Prevention — SunTrust will pay $20 million to establish a fund for distribution to organizations providing counseling and other services to distressed homeowners.
For additional information, read
the full press release on the SIGTARP site.
Roosevelt Commons gift cards available free to youth residents of 45417
Program made possible by an MVFHC Inclusive Community Fund grant
Youth age 17 and younger residing in ZIP code 45417 are eligible to receive a free $75 gift card to the Greater Dayton Recreation Center at Roosevelt Commons.
To register for gift cards, go in person to the Greater Dayton Recreation Center at Roosevelt Commons, 2021 West Third Street. You must present proof of residence in ZIP code 45417.
For more information, visit our page about the gift card program.
Previous news items are available here.