Montana Property Manager Charged with Retaliation

HUD recently charged a Montana landlord and property manager for retaliating against a tenant for exercising her fair housing rights. The retaliatory behavior included coercion, intimidation, threats, or interference in violation of Section 818 of the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act prohibits retaliating against anyone for exercising their fair housing rights, as well as coercing, intimidating, threatening, or interfering with someone’s exercise of those rights.

In its Charge of Discrimination HUD alleges that the property manager and owner of a 10-unit apartment complex retaliated against the tenant after the tenant informed the property manager that his unwanted conduct toward her daughter was inappropriate given the property manager’s position as landlord. After the tenant confronted the property manager, the property manager took several retaliatory actions, including sending multiple threats of eviction, revoking tenancy privileges, and sending harassing text messages, culminating in seeking to evict the complainant. The tenant felt compelled to leave the unit and seek out alternative, less desirable housing because of the retaliation.

“The deplorable conduct alleged in this case constitutes retaliation that violates the Fair Housing Act,” said Damon Smith, HUD’s General Counsel. “HUD is steadfastly committed to protecting the rights of tenants to be free from such retaliation by landlords.”

A United States Administrative Law Judge will hear HUD’s charge unless any party elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If the Administrative Law Judge finds, after a hearing, that discrimination has occurred, the judge may award damages to the tenant. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose civil penalties to vindicate the public interest. If the federal court hears the case, the judge may also award punitive damages to the resident.