Minnesota Owner Accused of Discriminating Against Asian Family

HUD recently announced that it has charged the owner and manager of a Minnesota property with housing discrimination based on national origin for refusing to rent a home to an Asian family of Hmong descent.

The case began when a family—a mother, her adult son, and two minor children—filed a complaint with HUD after trying to rent a three-bedroom townhouse in March 2014. After visiting the home and paying an $80 application fee, they said the landlord expressed concerns about the mother’s English language skills. In an email to the adult son, the landlord allegedly wrote: “During your visit to the address, you prompted your mom to say something to me. She appears to know some simple phrases, but understanding lease legal terms is very unlikely.”

Though they met all the requirements for rental, the family said that the landlord wanted them to pay $500 to have the lease translated and then denied their application, stating: “I regret that the rental application has been denied. Both adults would have to sign the contract. [Your mother] appears to have limited English skills. … [T]he contract must be translated to her native language. If not, she could easily break the lease. Such translations are very costly.”

When the son challenged the denial as unlawful discrimination, the landlord allegedly threatened to report the son, who holds a real estate license, to the Minnesota department that governs real-estate licensing.

Following an investigation, HUD charged the landlord with refusing to rent to the family, attempting to charge them to have the lease translated, making discriminatory statements based on their national origin, and retaliating against them for exercising their fair housing rights. The charge will be heard by a HUD administrative law judge unless either party elects to take the case to federal court.