FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Justice Department Reaches Settlement with Homeowners Association and Property Management Company in Fair Housing Lawsuit Involving Occupancy Limits
The Justice Department announced today that the Townhomes of Kings Lake HOA Inc. (HOA) and Vanguard Management Group Inc. have agreed to pay $150,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The lawsuit alleged that the HOA adopted and both defendants enforced occupancy limits that discriminated against families with children at the Townhomes of Kings Lake, a 249-townhome community in Gibsonton, Fla.
Under the proposed consent decree, which must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, the defendants will pay $45,000 to the family that initiated the original complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), $85,000 into a victim fund to compensate other aggrieved families, and $20,000 to the United States as a civil penalty. In addition, the proposed consent decree prohibits the defendants from discriminating in the future against families with children and requires the defendants to receive training on the requirements of the FHA. In January 2013, while the lawsuit was pending, the HOA modified its occupancy limits to permit four occupants in 2-bedroom townhomes, six occupants in 3-bedroom townhomes, and eight occupants in 4-bedroom townhomes.
“The Fair Housing Act ensures that families with children are not denied their housing rights based on discriminatory occupancy policies,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce fair housing laws that protect the rights of families with children.”
The lawsuit, filed in October 2012, arose from a complaint filed with HUD by a family with six children that was living at the Townhomes of Kings Lake. After the family moved into their 4-bedroom townhome, the defendants indicated there was a problem with the number of people living in the home and threatened to evict the family. The family eventually moved out of the Kings Lake community. After HUD investigated the complaint, it issued a charge of discrimination and referred the matter to the Justice Department. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants violated the family’s rights, that the restrictive occupancy policies discriminated against other families with children, and that the defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination or denied rights protected by the FHA to a group of persons.
“Twenty-plus years of HUD guidance and cases have put housing providers on notice that occupancy standards which unfairly limit or exclude families with children violate the Fair Housing Act,” said Bryan Greene, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD and the Department of Justice are committed to making sure that all people have equal access to the housing for which they financially qualify.”