Here is another example of a recent Fair Housing Act lawsuit brought by the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”). I try to post case summaries in order to provide timely updates to real estate agents and brokers about the "dos and don'ts" under the Fair Housing Act, since fair housing is such an important issue.
Yesterday afternoon (Tuesday, May 19, 2009), the DOJ filed a Fair Housing Act lawsuit against the town of Garner, North Carolina, and the town’s board of adjustment alleging that they violated the Fair Housing Act when they refused to allow up to eight men recovering from drug and alcohol addictions to live together as a reasonable accommodation for their disabilities.
The lawsuit also alleges that the defendants had engaged in a denial of rights to a group of persons or a pattern or practice of discrimination by failing or refusing to recognize their obligation to make reasonable accommodations. The home is chartered by Oxford House Inc., a non-profit organization that assists in the development of self-governing houses in which persons in recovery support one another’s determination to remain sober. The town of Garner permits up to six persons to live in the home, but has refused to consider requests by Oxford House to increase the number to eight.
The Fair Housing Act requires jurisdictions to make reasonable accommodations in their rules when necessary to provide persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to housing. As a result, the DOJ believes that the town should have granted the request to allow eight people as a reasonable accommodation.
This case arose as a result of a complaint filed with HUD by Oxford House. HUD conducted an investigation and referred the matter to the DOJ.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for the victims, a civil penalty and a court order requiring Garner to grant the requested accommodation and establish a procedure for considering future accommodation requests. The complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct. The allegations must still be proven in federal court.
I will try to follow this case and provide an update when the case is resolved.
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