Illinois Community Pays $630,000 to Settle Disability Discrimination Claims

HUD recently announced that it has reached a $630,000 agreement with a group of Illinois property owners and a management company using rental screening policies that prevented applicants with mental disabilities from living in a supportive living complex that the group owned. The community was accused of violating the Fair Housing Act as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

The case came to HUD's attention after several individuals with mental disabilities filed complaints alleging they were denied residency at the property due to their disabilities. The complaints were filed with the assistance of a fair housing organization, which conducted fair housing testing and also filed a HUD complaint.

Under the settlement agreement, the owners and managers agreed to pay $630,000 in damages and attorneys' fees. In addition, the community agreed to make significant policy changes, including revising its admissions manual and handbook; updating its non-discrimination statement; establishing a reasonable accommodation policy; and conducting fair housing training for employees. The company also agreed to develop a protocol to apply objective admissions criteria, notify all applicants of their due process rights, and refrain from asking applicants about the existence of mental disabilities or prescriptions during tours of the facility.

"Discriminatory practices that target persons with disabilities not only violate their rights, they lock them out of decent, safe and affordable housing," said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "HUD remains committed to taking action when property owners and managers fail to meet their obligations under the Fair Housing Act."