News and Press Releases

Fair Housing Act Lawsuit Against West Salem Landlord Settled

October 28, 2011

Madison, Wis. - John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced the settlement of a lawsuit alleging that a West Salem landlord and her corporation violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent to a single woman.

“Under the Fair Housing Act, there is no tolerance for gender stereotypes when renting housing. Landlords cannot judge a potential tenant’s suitability based on the person’s gender,” said U.S. Attorney Vaudreuil.

The lawsuit, filed today along with the settlement in U.S. District Court in Madison, alleged that Darlene Dovenberg of West Salem, Wis., violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent a house to a single woman with a young child. The lawsuit also named as a defendant Dovenberg’s corporation, Dovenberg Investments, LLC.

The federal lawsuit arose when the woman filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), after Darlene Dovenberg refused to show her a rural home for rent. Dovenberg told the woman she would not rent to her because the woman would not have a man residing with her who could “shovel snow and stuff.”

Under the terms of the settlement, which must still be approved by the U.S. District Court, the defendants will pay the complainant $15,000 in damages. The defendants will also develop and maintain non-discrimination policies and attend fair housing training. As part of the consent decree, Darlene Dovenberg has issued an apology to the woman against whom she discriminated.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability.

Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination should call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, mailbox number 9993, or email the Justice Department at Individuals who believe they may have been victims of housing discrimination may also contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.

The litigation of this matter has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara L. Oswald.



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