Massillon landlords agree to $850,000 settlement to resolve housing discrimination lawsuits
Case involves discrimination on the bases of race and familial status
August 25, 2014 — The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Massillon, Ohio landlords John and Mary Ruth have agreed to pay $850,000 to settle lawsuits filed by DOJ and other parties alleging that the Ruths discriminated on the bases of race and familial status at properties they formerly owned in Massillon.
DOJ filed a lawsuit on October 31, 2011, alleging that the Ruths and the companies through which they manage their properties had discriminated against African Americans and families with children at Yorkshire Apartments, Thackeray Ledges and Wales Ridge—three apartment complexes in Massillon. Stark County, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and several former property managers and tenants at the complexes also filed related lawsuits raising similar allegations.
In an order issued on March 31, 2014, by U.S. District Judge John R. Adams, the court noted that 10 of Mr. Ruth’s former employees testified they were instructed to discriminate against African Americans and that other former employees testified they had been instructed to discriminate against families with children. The court ruled that DOJ had presented sufficient evidence of a pattern or practice of unlawful discrimination by the defendants for the case to go to trial.
Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants will pay:
- $650,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees to the plaintiffs in the lawsuits filed by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, Stark County and several former residents and property managers;
- $175,000 in damages to 11 additional former residents and employees identified by DOJ who had been harmed by the defendants’ discrimination; and
- $25,000 in a civil penalty to the United States.
For more information, read the DOJ press release.
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.”
Previous news items are available here.
Resources and useful links
Inclusive Community Fund
MVFHC’s Inclusive Community Fund
is working to help residents of ZIP codes 45417
with down payment assistance, home repair and rehabilitation, accessibility modifications, home improvement loans, and neighborhood quality of life grants. For more information, visit our ICF page
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
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.
MVFHC provides legal counsel and advice at no cost for foreclosure cases involving residential mortgages.
If you have received a foreclosure complaint, call MVFHC at 937-223-6035.
If you are struggling with your mortgage payments but have not yet been served with a foreclosure notice, please contact the HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton at 937-853-1600.
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
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
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.
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 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.
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
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