The Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced an agreement with the owners of the HUD-supported Hollyhand Companies, Inc., and The Village at Meadowview in Fairhope, Alabama.
This announcement settles a Fair Housing discrimination case involving a policy barring visitors of a certain age due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The details of this Fair Housing Act complaint involve a resident filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development alleging the tenant could no longer care for her grandchildren in the home because doing so allegedly violated the “no visitors under 12” policy.
The HUD official site states that as a result of the resident’s complaint, the agency “…engaged in a compliance review to assess whether the owners had adopted an impermissible age distinction in their HUD-assisted programs or activities”.
Fair Housing Act laws forbid discrimination in establishing terms and conditions for living in a given property. This discrimination can and in this case did include discrimination based on an actual or perceived disability.
HUD’s press release about the settlement includes the following statement:
“Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by recipients of federal financial assistance. In addition, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance.”
Discrimination can and does include, under federal law, discrimination because of a fear that someone might spread a contagious disease.
“While housing providers can certainly take reasonable precautions to protect their residents from COVID-19, such as requiring residents and visitors to wear masks or maintain social distancing in public areas of an apartment building, they may not impose blanket prohibitions on any visits from children no matter what precautions are taken, thus keeping residents from visiting with family and friends in their own homes,”
That’s according to Demetria McCain, the HUD Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, who was quoted in the press release. Cain adds, “As the nation continues to recover from the pandemic, HUD remains committed to protecting the rights of individuals and families when their fair housing rights are violated.”
Under the Agreement, the owners of The Village at Meadowview agreed to pay the resident $20,000. The offending policy has been eliminated and the owners are required to “implement revised visitation policies across all of their federally-funded properties;”
If you have experienced discrimination at any stage of the housing process, file a complaint with the HUD Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (Relay). You can file a complaint online at hud.gov/fairhousing.