April is Fair Housing Month, and while housing discrimination headlines are nothing new, April’s are especially relevant. Discrimination at any stage in the housing process can seriously interfere with those planning to buy a home, and sometimes the only line of defense against further violations of the Fair Housing Act is having the victims report the illegal activity.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced a settlement in a housing discrimination case in Maine.
A press release on the HUD official site announces that “Page Realty, LLC, the owner of a Manchester, Maine, rental property, and its rental agent, Ramona Venskus, will pay $18,000 under a HUD Consent Order resolving allegations that they denied housing to families with children”.
The Fair Housing Act, a federal law, prohibits housing providers from “denying or limiting housing to families with children under age 18, including refusing to negotiate, making discriminatory statements, and publishing discriminatory advertisements” that single people out based on family status or lack thereof.
“It’s hard enough for families to find places to live that meet their needs without being denied suitable housing because they have children,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, who was quoted in the HUD press release.
Farías, adds, “HUD is committed to working to ensure that housing providers comply with their Fair Housing Act obligation to treat all applicants the same, including families with children.”
This Fair Housing case was brought HUD’s attention by an organization known as Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Inc., which is described in the press release as “a HUD Fair Housing Initiatives Program agency in Portland, Maine”. Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Inc. filed a complaint “alleging that Page Realty, LLC, and Ramona Venskus discriminated based on familial status when they refused to negotiate with fair housing testers posing as families with children”.
The realty company also allegedly posted discriminatory advertisements indicating that children were not allowed, and made discriminatory statements to fair housing testers. The HUD settlement requires Page Realty, LLC, and Ramona Venskus to pay Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Inc., $18,000 and also requires Fair Housing Act training.