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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Justice Department Obtains $100,000 Settlement in Lawsuit Against Wisconsin Mobile Home Park for Discriminating Against Families with Children

The Justice Department announced today that the owners and operators of Twin Oaks Mobile Home Park in Whitewater, Wisconsin, have agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a Justice Department lawsuit alleging that they unlawfully excluded families with children from significant portions of their 230-lot mobile home park.  The settlement must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

“Families with children should be free to choose housing that meets their needs and their budget,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division.  “They should not face discrimination when they are looking for a home for their families.”  

“The U.S. Department of Justice is committed to fighting illegal discrimination and ensuring the fair housing rights of families wherever they are challenged,” said U.S. Attorney John W. Vaudreuil of the Western District of Wisconsin. 

The lawsuit, filed in October 2014, arose as a result of a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by a single mother and a former resident who had tried to complete the sale of a mobile home in the park.  The defendants refused to approve the application for residency of the single mother who planned to purchase the mobile home and live there with her then-two-year-old child because the home was located in an area of the park where they did not allow children.  After conducting an investigation, HUD found that the defendants had violated the Fair Housing Act and referred the matter to the Department of Justice.  The defendants in the case include Twin Oaks Mobile Home Park Inc.; Merrill Eugene Gutzmer, the owner of the park; and Dennis Hansen, the resident manager.   After the lawsuit was filed, the defendants approved the residency of the single mother who had filed the HUD complaint and she was able to purchase the mobile home.  

“Unless a mobile home park meets the very specific requirements to be designated housing for older persons, the owner cannot refuse to sell or rent a home to a family because they have a child,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.  “Today’s settlement reaffirms HUD’s determination to work with the Justice Department to ensure that occupancy standards established by housing providers do not violate the Fair Housing Act.”

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, the defendants will pay $45,000 in damages and rent credits to the two persons who filed HUD complaints, $45,000 to other persons who are identified later through a claims process established in the decree and $10,000 in a civil penalty.  The settlement also requires the defendants to change their policies to allow families with children throughout the park.  Anyone who believes that they have been discriminated against by Twin Oaks because they have children should call the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, mailbox number 9997 or email the department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status and disability.  Among other things, the Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to refuse to rent housing and to discriminate in the terms or conditions of housing rentals because of familial status, except in specified categories of housing that are reserved for older persons.  More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt.  Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov, or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 or through www.hud.gov.

Twin Oaks Consent Decree

Twin Oaks Joint Motion for Entry of Consent Decree

Topic(s): 
Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 
15-1519
Updated August 22, 2016