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The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against the homeowners association and former manager of a 249-townhome community in Gibsonton, Fla., for violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against families with children.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, charges that Townhomes of Kings Lake HOA Inc. engaged in a pattern or practice of violating the Fair Housing Act by adopting, maintaining, ratifying, and, along with Vanguard Management Group Inc., enforcing occupancy standards unduly limiting the number of individuals who can reside in the townhomes. The suit also charges that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act by threatening to evict a couple and their six minor children from the four-bedroom townhome they were renting and by taking other actions to interfere with their tenancy.
“The Fair Housing Act ensures that families with children have an equal right to use and enjoy housing of their choice,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of fair housing laws that protect the rights of families with children.”
The lawsuit arose when the family filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). After the family had moved into the home, the management company and the homeowners association indicated there was a problem with the number of children living there. The defendants’ occupancy policy allowed only six individuals to occupy the home, which was far more stringent than what Hillsborough County permitted. The homeowners association also adopted similarly restrictive limitations on the number of individuals who could live in two- and three-bedroom townhomes in Kings Lake. After HUD investigated the complaint, it issued a charge of discrimination and the matter was referred to the Justice Department.
“Housing providers may set occupancy standards but those standards cannot be so restrictive that they exclude families who, based on a home’s overall size and configuration, should be able to live there,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD and the Department of Justice are committed to taking action against anyone who unlawfully denies housing to families with children.”
The lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination by the defendants, monetary damages for those harmed by the defendants’ 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.
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.