The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against the owner and manager of rental apartments in Jaffrey, N.H., for violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against families with children.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire, alleges that Bruce R. Edwards, as Trustee of the Bruce R. Edwards Revocable Trust of 2004 and in his personal capacity, engaged in a pattern or practice of violating the Fair Housing Act or denied rights protected by the Act. According to the complaint, the defendant allegedly established and implemented a discriminatory “no children” policy for prospective tenants in a boarding house that he owned and managed. The suit also alleges that the defendant violated the Fair Housing Act by enforcing the “no children” provision of the lease against a tenant and requiring the tenant to immediately find other housing arrangements for his daughter, who visited the boarding house on weekends.
“The Fair Housing Act protects tenants with children from facing unfair terms and conditions of rental that do not apply to tenants without children,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of fair housing laws that ensure that tenants can secure rental housing for their families without fear of discrimination.”
“This lawsuit demonstrates the Department of Justice’s commitment to ensuring fair and equal access to housing for all New Hampshire citizens and attempts to erect discriminatory barriers to this fundamental civil right will not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney John P. Kacavas for the District of New Hampshire.
This lawsuit arose as a result of a complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by a tenant who lived in the defendant’s boarding house and had joint custody of his minor daughter. The defendant’s lease stated that no children were allowed in the building, and the defendant made additional oral statements to the tenant that children were not permitted. After receiving noise complaints about the tenant’s child, the defendant notified the tenant in a letter marked “Eviction Notice” that he was enforcing the “no children” provision of the lease and that the tenant had to immediately find other arrangements for his daughter on the weekends. As a result, the tenant began taking his daughter to stay with family members, which resulted in both economic and emotional costs. After HUD investigated the complaint, it issued a charge of discrimination and the matter was referred to the Justice Department.
“It’s surprising that 25 years after Congress outlawed housing discrimination against families with children, many landlords don’t know it’s illegal or don’t take the law seriously,” said Acting Assistant Secretary Bryan Greene for HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue work alongside the Department of Justice in educating people on the law and obtaining housing relief for families denied housing."
The lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination by the defendant, monetary damages for those harmed by the defendant’s actions and a civil penalty. Any individuals who have information relevant to this case are urged to contact the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section of the Civil Rights Division at 1-800-896-7743, ext. 3.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.usdoj.gov/crt . Individuals who believe that they have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777.
The complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct. The allegations must still be proven in federal court.