Florida HOA Pays $150K to Settle Discrimination Complaint
In August 2013, a Florida condominium association and its former management company agreed to pay $150,000 to settle a fair housing claim alleging that they enforced occupancy limits that discriminated against families with children.
The lawsuit arose from a HUD complaint filed by a family with six children living at the 249-townhome community. After moving into the four-bedroom unit, the family claimed, they were advised of a “problem” with having eight occupants in the home and threatened with eviction. At the time, they said, they were unaware that the community’s rules allowed only six occupants in four-bedroom units. Allegedly, the community had similarly restrictive limitations on the number of people who could live in two- and three-bedroom units. The family eventually moved out.
Following a HUD investigation, the Justice Department sued the association and its management company, claiming that they engaged in a pattern or practice of violating fair housing law by adopting, maintaining, ratifying, and, along with the management company, enforcing overly restrictive occupancy standards.
In January 2013, while the lawsuit was pending, the association modified its occupancy limits to permit four occupants in two-bedroom townhomes, six occupants in three-bedroom townhomes, and eight occupants in four-bedroom townhomes. In March 2013, the court refused the association’s request to dismiss the case.
Under the settlement, the defendants agreed to pay $45,000 to the family that filed the complaint, $85,000 into a fund to compensate other alleged victims, and $20,000 in civil penalties. In addition, the settlement prohibits the association and its management company from discriminating in the future against families with children and requires them to receive training on fair housing requirements.
“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,” Bryan Greene, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement. “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.”
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