By Richard Halstead, Marin Independent Journal
The owner of a six-unit San Rafael apartment complex has agreed to pay $27,200 as part of a settlement following allegations that she and her property manager discriminated against an Hispanic family that was forced to leave the complex.
The mediated settlement resulted after Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California, formerly known as Fair Housing of Marin, filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and state Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The complaint was filed against Rosa Nguyen, the owner, and Bob Torreso, the property manager of the complex at 150 Clark St. The plaintiffs have requested anonymity.
“I’m happy that our clients were at least partially compensated for the considerable damages they experienced,” Caroline Peattie, Fair Housing’s executive director, said in a statement.
The settlement also requires Nguyen to undergo fair housing training for three years.
Stephen Lightfoot of Corte Madera, the attorney representing Nguyen and Torreso, said, “My clients denied all of the allegations, and we reached a settlement which has a finding of no liability and no admission of liability.”
According to Fair Housing, the family moved into the second story of the complex in February 2011. At that time, four of the units were occupied by non-Hispanic, Caucasian individuals and one was occupied by another Hispanic couple with two children.
Fair Housing said that since the winter of 2011, the plaintiff family had been experiencing issues with mold and moisture in their apartment. As a result, the family’s mother and young son experienced significant allergies and a worsening of respiratory disabilities.
Fair Housing said despite numerous requests that the moisture problems be addressed, nothing was done until the latter half of 2015, when the family’s father was granted permission to replace the moldy carpet with laminate flooring on his own with only partial reimbursement for materials. Soon afterward, according to Fair Housing, property manager Torreso began cautioning the family about noise-related concerns. Torreso told the family that a new tenant had moved in below them and had complained that their son was making too much noise, running around the apartment as late as midnight. The family disputed this, responding that the boy’s bedtime was 9 p.m.
Fair Housing said Torreso also began complaining to the family about the accumulation of garbage at the complex. Since the trash did not belong to the family and the manager provided no indication why he believed it did, the family interpreted these allegations as discriminatory statements based on their national origin.
By early 2016, the tenancies for both the plaintiff family and the other Hispanic family at the complex had been terminated. Torreso told the plaintiff family that the termination of their tenancy was due to the noise caused by their son; he reportedly told them he couldn’t rent the apartment below them because of their child.
Desperate to hold onto their apartment, the plaintiff family offered to relocate to the ground-floor apartment. Fair Housing said that owner Nguyen denied the request, however, stating that she had “had it” with the family.
The plaintiff family’s father alleges that in mid-February 2016, Nguyen told him that she no longer wanted to rent any apartments to families with children. At this point, the family sought help from Fair Housing, which sent a letter requesting rescission of the notice of termination and outlining the family’s concerns. Nevertheless, Nguyen filed an unlawful detainer to evict the plaintiff family and the other Hispanic family.
Fair Housing said a copy of the complex’s House Rules and Regulations, included as an exhibit in the detainer, contained discriminatory statements, because they placed limits on where children could play in the complex. The plaintiff family ultimately relocated to a smaller, more expensive apartment in a neighborhood with much more traffic, noise and crime. Fair Housing said subsequently, in the summer of 2016, it conducted an investigation that showed Torreso was discriminating on the basis of national origin by showing preference to non-Hispanic, Caucasian housing applicants.
Fair Housing said Torreso told its Hispanic investigator who inquired about availabilities that a tenant might be moving out in the next month and advised him to call back in three weeks. Fair Housing said one day later Torreso told its non-Hispanic Caucasian investigator that there might be an opening in two weeks, and also provided more detailed information regarding rental terms, including rent and security deposit amounts.
“Our Latino investigator had a clearly identifiable accent and name,” Peattie said in a release. “He was never given a chance to talk about his qualifications or put in an application.”
Fair Housing said two weeks later, its Latino investigator contacted Torreso again and was told there were no vacancies. Fair Housing said less than 24 hours later, Torreso told its non-Hispanic Caucasian investigator that there were two units opening soon, and agreed to provide him with a tour of the premises.
Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California
BY NICOLE ÇABALETTE
An African-American renter found a new home in Marin and moved in. Her landlord told her that her neighbors would be upset that she had rented to an African-American. The landlord began harassing the tenant, and following a dispute about rent, placed a sign in her window: “Black Section 8 Tenant – Shameless [tenant’s name].” This tenant’s story of racial discrimination is devastating and is even more disturbing because it happened within the last year.
This year marks fifty years since the federal Fair Housing Act was enacted. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., 125 cities erupted in riots. Seventy thousand military troops and National Guardsmen were deployed in twenty-nine states. One week later, in an attempt to address racial segregation and discrimination, Lyndon Johnson signed the Act into law.
The Fair Housing Act protects individuals from discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability and familial status. In California, there are additional protections for marital status, sexual orientation, immigration status, citizenship, primary language, ancestry, source of income and arbitrary characteristics such as age or physical appearance through the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.
Fast forward to 2018. Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California (“FHANC”), formerly known as Fair Housing of Marin, a nonprofit organization serving Marin, Solano, Sonoma and other Bay Area counties, works to ensure equal housing opportunity and to educate the community on the value of diversity in our neighborhoods.
Based in San Rafael, and celebrating its 32nd year serving our community, FHANC is a HUD-Certified Housing Counseling Agency which provides free fair housing counseling, investigation, enforcement, mediation, and legal or administrative referrals to those who have experienced housing discrimination. FHANC also provides foreclosure prevention counseling for distressed homeowners. FHANC staff may represent tenants in the administrative complaint process, and as an agency with standing, sometimes brings administrative complaints and lawsuits in order to change discriminatory housing policies.
For property owners and managers, and other real estate professionals in both the private and public sectors, FHANC provides fair housing law training programs and seminars. Community and tenant groups can also schedule fair housing presentations.
For homeowners suffering a financial hardship, FHANC provides guidance on eligibility and qualifications for participation in federal and state programs to help them stay in their homes, maintain an affordable mortgage payment, and avoid foreclosure.
For homebuyers, FHANC offers pre-purchase education workshops in English and Spanish in the fall and spring, with the next English workshop scheduled for March 1. FHANC’s website is also a fantastic resource for best practices and legal information for tenants, landlords, homeowners and other industry professionals.
FHANC conducts on-call housing discrimination investigations, wherein trained testers take on the role of someone inquiring about housing and report on their experience. Testing is critical to the enforcement of fair housing laws and serves to expose discriminatory practices and patterns that might otherwise go undetected. The reports can be used as evidence in support of a housing discrimination complaint.
For example, FHANC recently conducted a two-part investigation at a property in Marin, using callers with racially-identifiable voices. In both instances, the housing provider refused to schedule a private appointment with the African-American callers; however, when speaking with Caucasian callers just hours later, he agreed to meet without question and offered a lower security deposit.
Another, lesser known piece of FHANC’s advocacy work is its investigations of bank-owned (REO) properties, which commenced in 2013. On February 1, 2018, FHANC, together with the National Fair Housing Alliance and eighteen other fair housing organizations around the country, filed a lawsuit against a Deuschte Bank, its loan servicer, Ocwen Financial, and its property manager, Altisource Portfolian Solutions, related to their failure to maintain and market Deuschte Bank’s REO properties in neighborhoods of color compared to white neighborhoods. FHANC and its partners filed a similar lawsuit last year against Fannie Mae.
Learn More and Get Involved
On April 25, to celebrate Fair Housing Month and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act’s passage, FHANC will present the 2018 Fair Housing Conference at the Embassy Suites Hotel in San Rafael, which will feature experts in the fair housing field who will address pressing fair housing concerns affecting Marin County and the Bay Area, and offer strategies to promote equal housing opportunity.
The examples of blatant discrimination cited above provide a glimpse into the kind of work still required, fifty years later, to continue the fight for equal housing opportunity. If you are looking for ways to get involved, FHANC is always looking for volunteers interested in becoming testers. If you are interested in helping to uncover illegal housing discrimination, please emailor call Katherine Collado at 415.483.7516. FHANC is also seeking committed board members and donations are always welcome. If you are interested in learning more, please email or call FHANC’s Executive Director, Caroline Peattie at 415.457.5025.
Nicole Çabalette is a member of MCBA's Board of Directors and a partner at Keegin Harrison LLP, with a transactional practice emphasizing business, real estate law and estate planning.
View the article online here.
Lawsuit: Deutsche Bank lets foreclosures in minority areas fall to disrepair, suppressing home values
by Scott Holland
Nearly 20 fair housing activist organizations are suing Deutsche Bank, alleging it worked to suppress property values in minority neighborhoods across the country by allowing foreclosed homes to fall into disrepair, while maintaining its holdings much better in predominantely white neighborhoods.
In a complaint filed Feb. 1 in federal court in Chicago, the private organizations said Deutsche Bank did less exterior maintenance and marketing of properties it acquired through foreclosure in predominantly minority neighborhoods in 30 metropolitan areas. In addition to Deutsche Bank, named defendants include Ocwen Financial Corp. and Altisource Portfolio Solutions, Inc., which do home preservation and maintenance work for bank-owned properties.
The housing groups say they investigated more than 1,100 foreclosed properties going back to 2011, collecting “evidence on 39 objective aspects of the routine exterior maintenance of each property investigated, and accumulated over 29,000 photographs of the pertinent conditions, such as unsecured doors, damage to steps, handrails, windows and fences, graffiti, the accumulation of trash and mail and overgrown grass and shrubbery.”
They also said they identified marketing deficiencies like an absence of “for sale” signs or current online listings while allowing “negative signage and warnings to deter prospective buyers” such as “bank-owned,” “auction” or “foreclosed.”
According to the complaint, there were “highly significant disparities in the routine exterior maintenance and marketing of the Deutsche Bank-owned homes in communities of color as compared to white communities.” The plaintiffs said it found in each of the 30 cities examples of bank-owned properties in markedly worse conditions in neighborhoods primarily occupied by African-American and Latino residents.
This approach perpetuated racial segregation, the complaint alleged, by denying housing opportunities, impeding neighborhood stabilization and economic recovery and lowering the value of other homes. They say taking care of properties differently based on the racial makeup of their neighborhood violates the Fair Housing Act, and further that it affects the organizations’ “missions by perpetuating the unlawful discrimination and segregation they use their limited resources to dismantle.”
Plaintiff organizations include the National Fair Housing Alliance, Hope Fair Housing Center, South Suburban Hosing Center, Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Fair Housing Opportunities of Northwest Ohio, Fair Housing Continuum, Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, Denver Metro Fair Housing Center, Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council, Fair Housing Center of West Michigan, Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Housing Research and Advocacy Center, Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches, Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, Central Ohio Fair Housing Association, Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence, Connecticut Fair Housing Center, North Texas Fair Housing Center and Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California.
According to the complaint, the organizations filed an administrative housing discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair House and Equal Opportunity Office on Feb. 26, 2014, and amended it six times through July 26, 2017, as its investigation continued. That complaint is pending.
They also said Ocwen and Altisource have “histories of regulatory violations, allegations of unlawful corporate conduct and intentional bad acts, requiring the payment of millions of dollars to resolve claims that they have intentionally violated consumer finance, civil rights and securities laws, and defrauded borrowers with respect to their mortgage loans.”
In addition to a jury trial, the organizations want a court to declare Deutsche Bank’s conduct in violation of FHA regulations and to force it to stop treating properties differently based on neighborhood demographics. They seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
The housing organizations are represented by Soule, Bradtke & Lambert, of Elmhurst; Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC, of Washington, D.C.; and the National Fair Housing Alliance, also of Washington, D.C.
By Jessica Lussenhop BBC News, North Carolina
Across the US, sexual harassment at the hands of landlords, property managers and others in the housing industry can drive poor women and their children into homelessness. It is a problem badly understood and virtually unstudied.
Khristen Sellers needed a home. The previous few years had been a struggle. She'd left an abusive relationship, been arrested, wandered out and then back into her children's lives. Just as she seemed to be getting back on track, a probation violation sent Sellers to prison for the first time.
After five months, she returned to her hometown of Laurinburg, North Carolina. She was broke and homeless, starting over at the age of 29. She slept on couches. She got a job at a supermarket, then another at a fast-food restaurant."I'm walking to these jobs trying to, you know, stay afloat," she recalls.
So when Four-County Community Services - a local housing agency - offered her an opportunity to move into a white panelled, three-bedroom trailer home on the outskirts of town, she readily accepted. That's when the trouble started."I was trying to fix my life," she says, "and this put a halt on it."
She had applied for the federally subsidised Housing Choice Voucher Program, better known by its former title, Section 8. In the US, 2.1 million low-income households rent from private landlords using the vouchers, and their rent is partially or fully covered by funds from the federal government.
Laurinburg is located in one of the most economically depressed counties in North Carolina. Vouchers are coveted, and some people languished on the waiting list for as long as 10 years. Four-County was the local agency entrusted with disbursing them.
Based on need, Sellers qualified relatively quickly. Another Section 8 tenant had abandoned the double-wide trailer on Dorset Drive, and Sellers was told that if she cleaned it, she could move right in. Every morning, Sellers' mother dropped her off alone at the property. For a week, she hauled out broken furniture, pulled rotten food from the refrigerator, scrubbed dog excrement off the carpets and poisoned the cockroaches. There was extensive damage to the property that Sellers couldn't fix herself, but before the landlord would make the repairs, an inspector from Four-County had to take a look.
Sellers remembers the first time the agency's inspector, a former North Carolina state police officer named Eric Pender, came to the property with a clipboard in hand. As she continued to clean, she says the conversation quickly turned from the house to Sellers' personal life.
"'Where's your boyfriend?' 'Why you don't have a man here cleaning?'" Sellers says he asked her. "And I'm like, 'I don't have time for a man, I just came out of prison, I'm trying to get my life right.'"
Undeterred, Sellers says Pender asked her if she "gives head" or if she'd ever been paid for sex, implying that his signature on the inspection was the only thing standing between her and a place to live. At one point, she says he called her into the bathroom under the pretence of showing her a needed repair. She says he pulled her in by her hips, blocked the doorway and took out his penis. She managed to push him out of the way. Sellers was horrified. And she says it was the first in a string of incidents."It was continuous," she says. "He would never sign. Each time he came, it was like, 'You owe me before I sign this paper. And you gotta make a decision.'" She worried she would lose her voucher if she complained to the housing agency. She tried to hire a lawyer who told her to come back when she had witnesses. A private investigator told her she couldn't afford him. A colleague she confided in thought she was doing Sellers a favour by going to Pender's boss.
Marin County has long resisted growth in the name of environmentalism. But high housing costs and segregation persist
By LIAM DILLON LA Times
The December meeting on a proposed 400-home development played out as many have in Marin County. Dozens of residents approached the microphone to argue the project would hurt their quality of life. The Board of Supervisors killed the plan and told the developer what to expect when it tried again.
"That new proposal should and will be subject to rigorous community dialogue and vetting," Supervisor Damon Connolly said just before the vote.
Marin residents often win fights to keep the county's landscape unspoiled by large, new construction. The county, which sits across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, is home to Point Reyes National Seashore and many other natural splendors.
But residents' long-standing distaste for development hasn't led just to the preservation of open spaces. In this affluent enclave of high real estate and rental costs, decades-old patterns of neighborhood segregation remain intact.
When a Los Angeles-based nonprofit examined demographic data on wealth, education, criminal justice and other issues, it found that Marin is home to the largest inequities between racial groups of any county in California. Disparities in homeownership rates and housing costs between whites and blacks and Latinos were a predominant factor leading to Marin's ranking.
In recent years, Marin residents have blocked housing of all kinds. The 400-unit project that county supervisors rejected in December was the third in six years developers proposed on the site, where a former Baptist seminary now sits abandoned. Another stalled project would have built 224 homes for low-income seniors and families on land owned by "Star Wars" creator George Lucas. A failed effort to redevelop a run-down strip mall into 82 apartments primarily for low-income residents fueled the defeat of a county supervisor who backed it.
The battles came after the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development investigated Marin in 2009 and found that the county's housing policies had contributed to the continued concentration of black and Latino residents in just a few neighborhoods. Following the probe, the county agreed to let federal officials oversee its housing policies. Five years later, HUD determined that Marin had started writing new rules to reverse segregation, but said results were lacking.
"The Department's review showed that the county only developed approximately 73 affordable rental units that were made available to families with children and, unfortunately, most of these units are in areas of minority concentration," Anné Quesada, HUD's regional director for its Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, wrote in a December 2015 letter to the county.
Marin residents' resistance to development exasperates low-income housing advocates, who say the opposition from locals is antithetical to their professed values. The county, while predominantly wealthy and white, is also one of California's most liberal: Almost 80% of voters there chose Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
"It's one thing to talk the talk and another to walk the walk," said Caroline Peattie, executive director of Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California. "Hillary Clinton is not going to force you to build an affordable housing development in your neighborhood. It's very easy to go down and vote for her. You can do that and not be touched by your vote in Marin County."
Some of Marin's housing problems can be traced to the 1940s, a time when development in the county was booming. As it did in other communities across the country, the federal government guaranteed bank loans to developers of white-only subdivisions in Marin, promoted the use of racially restrictive covenants on deeds to prevent people of color from buying homes and subsidized white residents' mortgages but not others, according to a recent report by county officials on housing disparities.
Congress outlawed housing segregation in the late 1960s, a national effort that coincided with a push by Marin activists to restrain growth in the name of an ascendant environmental movement. The county blocked new highway construction, curbed connections to water sources and limited home building on large plots of land. Now, almost 85% of the county is off limits to development. At the same time, affordable housing in Marin County is all but unavailable and racial disparities and segregation continue.
The county's median home value is $1.1 million — a record high. Marin's monthly median rental price of $4,323 is the nation's highest, according to real estate website Zillow. Every eight years, the state sets targets for new home production to keep pace with projected population growth. Marin consistently ranks at or near the bottom among Bay Area counties in meeting those goals.
After paying rent, Marin's white households take home nearly $60,000 a year, an amount more than three and a half times that earned by Latino families in the county, according to the Advancement Project, the nonprofit that examined racial inequities in the state. Whites were also 40% more likely to own homes in Marin than blacks and Latinos, the study found.
In Marin City, an unincorporated neighborhood in southern Marin County, the effects of discriminatory federal housing policies remain stark.
During World War II, Marin City was home to the nation's first integrated federal housing project where workers in nearby shipyards and their families lived. But after the war, white residents, buoyed by government subsidies, bought homes throughout Marin County while black residents were often prohibited from doing so.
Today, Marin City is physically, economically and racially divided from the rest of the county. U.S. Highway 101 separates it from well-heeled Sausalito, a city just a mile away. Marin City's median household income of $40,000 is less than half the countywide median. Blacks make up less than 4% of Marin County's population, but almost 40% of Marin City's.
Marin County officials say they've encouraged home building in segregated neighborhoods, but agree with HUD that they could do more. To remedy affordability problems and racial inequities, the county is designing policies, such as dedicating more funding toward low-income housing in predominantly white areas and holding some public growth planning meetings in the evenings to encourage broader participation. County officials have been working on a plan for almost 18 months and expect to receive approval from the board this year.
"The county needs to acknowledge our racially segregating and discriminating policies today and historically," said Liz Darby, Marin County's social equity policy coordinator. But residents could resist that effort when it comes time to approve projects.
Lucas owns a 4,700-acre ranch in Marin, has built some studio space there and has long wanted to develop more of it, including proposing low-income housing. But pushback from neighbors blocked the attempts, including a 2015 effort to build a mix of single-family homes and apartments for low-income seniors and families, said Mary Stompe, executive director of PEP Housing, the affordable housing developer partnering with Lucas. Stompe now fears Lucas is going to abandon the project. A Lucas spokesman couldn't be reached for comment.
"It would have been such an incredible benefit to the community," Stompe said. "You have somebody who was willing to pay for the entire project. That never happens." Because of community opposition, Stompe said, Marin has a reputation among developers as the hardest county in California in which to build low-income housing.
Marin residents cite traffic congestion, especially along U.S. Highway 101, the need for parking and the county's small-town feel among other factors when arguing against new development.
Racial issues have also become part of the conversation. A proposal to redevelop a blighted Marinwood shopping center into 82 apartments primarily for low-income residents prompted a raucous community meeting about affordable housing in 2013 led by then-county Supervisor Susan Adams.
There Melissa Bradley, a prominent Marin County real estate agent, charged Adams with having "volunteered us for the ghetto." Stephen Nestel, a local blogger opposed to the project, said that it could increase crime, illustrating his argument with a photo of an MS-13 gang member in El Salvador handcuffed with tattoos covering his back. Adams later fought off a recall attempt but lost her seat in the next scheduled election, where housing issues were a dominant concern.
Marin's low-income housing advocates contend that when county residents don't allow affordable housing, they're endorsing existing inequities.
"They say they want to maintain the roots and characteristics of our county," said Omar Carrera, executive director of the nonprofit Canal Alliance. "But what they really are saying is that they want to maintain it as white and wealthy."
Northern California landlords have settled pet discrimination allegations that they and their agents discriminated against a female tenant with disabilities who requires an assistance animal, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California(FHANC) filed a complaint alleging that the owner of the properties (Shultz Investment Co.), representatives of its management company (Greenbrae Management, Inc.) and its leasing agents discriminated against a resident who has a medical condition and required a service dog at the Bon Air Apartments in Greenbrae, California.
The fair housing group also claimed the woman, who had lived at the property for more than 15 years, was subjected to discriminatory statements and retaliation due to the presence of her assistance animal, including false accusations that the animal was disruptive, that it bit maintenance workers, and that it was not a service animal under California law, according to the release.
The woman’s Housing Assistance Program voucher was ultimately cancelled, forcing her to find housing elsewhere. HUD investigation confirmed discriminatory statements by property managersA subsequent HUD investigation corroborated the woman’s need for the dog and discovered written discriminatory statements made by the property managers, according to a HUD release.
HUD found no evidence indicating that the animal was disruptive or had bitten anyone.
“Landlords are required to provide a reasonable accommodation for individuals who require assistance animals,” Bryan Greene, HUD General Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in the release.
“HUD is committed to make certain that landlords meet this obligation under the nation’s fair housing laws.
Landlords will pay $72,000 in pet discrimination agreement. Under the Conciliation Agreement, the respondents will pay the woman $31,000; pay Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California $41,000; and develop and implement a reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification policy consistent with the Fair Housing Act.
The owners will also revise their standard lease to be consistent with the new accommodations policy; send a letter to current tenants notifying them of the new policy; and obtain fair housing training.
“On an ongoing basis, our agency receives many calls from people with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations,” Caroline Peattie, FHANC’s Executive Director, said in the release. “Many of those calls concern service and companion animals; both must receive the same consideration under fair housing law. When a person with a disability requests an accommodation, the housing providers may require documentation that there is a disability and that the request will address that need, but they are required to consider each request individually and engage in an interactive dialogue with the tenant.”
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from denying or limiting housing opportunities to persons with disabilities or imposing different rental terms and conditions. This includes refusing to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices for people with disabilities.
In addition to the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition against discrimination based on disability, HUD provided guidance in April 2013 reaffirming that housing providers must provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities who require assistance animals.
Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California is a non-profit organization serving several Bay Area counties that provides free counseling, enforcement, mediation, and legal or administrative referrals to persons experiencing housing discrimination. Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California also offers foreclosure prevention services, pre-purchase education, seminars to help housing providers fully understand fair housing law, and education programs for tenants and the community at large. Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California is a HUD-Certified Housing Counseling Agency.
By Keri Brenner, Marin Independent Journal
An administrative complaint filed with a federal agency by a disabled Marin woman against managers of a Greenbrae apartment complex was settled in her favor, parties in the matter announced this week.
Stacy Kitchin, a former resident of the Bon Air Apartments, was awarded $31,000 last month in the settlement, filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s fair housing office. Also, San Rafael-based Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California was awarded $41,000 in the settlement to offset the organization’s “frustration of mission” due to numerous hours of staff time spent assisting Kitchin in the complaint.
Kitchin’s complaint of discrimination was filed against Schultz Investment Co., Greenbrae Management Inc., Belardo Co., L.P. and Thomas Allhoff, vice president of Schultz. It alleged that even though she was granted a “reasonable accommodation” in 2010 to have her service dog Zeus stay with her because of her disability, she was harassed by repeated notices of lease violations concerning the dog. That included, she said, false reports that the dog had attacked and bitten maintenance workers.
“I want everyone to know that people with disabilities deserve the same opportunities to enjoy their living space as others, and that landlords need to consider reasonable accommodation requests,” said Kitchin, who lived at Bon Air for more than 15 years until mid-January, when she was forced to move out. She has since found other housing in Marin, said Caroline Peattie, executive director of Fair Housing Advocates.
Allhoff, who was specifically mentioned by Kitchin as issuing repeated “threats to my tenancy,” did not return calls for comment on Wednesday.
As part of the settlement’s “conciliation agreement,” the Greenbrae landlords will have to implement a “reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification policy consistent with the Fair Housing Act,” and revise their leases accordingly. They must also send a letter to tenants notifying them of the new policy and take fair housing training.
Kitchin contacted Fair Housing Advocates in 2014 after receiving a “three-day notice to cure or quit,” related to removing Zeus. Management rescinded the notice after Fair Housing Advocates staff requested it, but the agency continued to get complaints from people with disabilities at the complex in 2014 and 2015, according to Fair Housing Advocates’ attorney, Casey Epp.
HUD issued a statement that landlords or other housing providers are prohibited “from denying or limiting housing opportunities to persons with disabilities or imposing different rental terms and conditions. This includes refusing to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices for people with disabilities.”
Peattie said the nature of Kitchin’s disability was not available, and that housing providers are not allowed to make specific inquiries to that effect.
According to the HUD statement, “(Zeus) alerts (Kitchin) when she is experiencing physiological changes and helps to ameliorate many of her disability-related symptoms.”
Jenna Lane of KCBS Radio speaks with Caroline Peattie, FHANC Executive Director, of allegations that Deutsche Bank, Ocwen Financial, and Altisource companies continue to discriminate against communities of color in 30 metropolitan areas across the United
National Fair Housing Alliance, Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California, and 18 other Fair Housing Center Partners Charge Deutsche Bank and its Preservation Maintenance Companies with Housing Discrimination based on Race and National Origin
Listen to the radio shows below.
KQED Radio Show with Caroline Peattie, FHANC Executive Director, of allegations that Deutsche Bank, Ocwen Financial, and Altisource companies continue to discriminate against communities of color in 30 metropolitan areas across the United States.
National Fair Housing Alliance, Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California, and 18 other Fair Housing Center Partners Charge Deutsche Bank and its Preservation Maintenance Companies with Housing Discrimination based on Race and National Origin
Listen to the radio show below.
PowerPoint available here.
A PDF version of the press release is here.
View the amended complaint here.
Today, Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California (FHANC) joined the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and other partners in announcing its collection of new evidence in support of allegations that Deutsche Bank, Ocwen Financial, and Altisource companies continue to discriminate against communities of color in 30 metropolitan areas across the United States. The 20 agencies allege that Deutsche Bank AG, Deutsche Bank National Trust, Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, Ocwen Financial Corporation, and Altisource Portfolio Solution, Inc. fail to provide required routine maintenance on bank-owned homes in middle- and working-class African American and Latino neighborhoods, while Deustche/Ocwen/Altisource consistently provide routine maintenance on similar bank-owned homes in white neighborhoods.
Poorly maintained bank-owned properties create a harmful and dangerous environment for the local community. They also drive down the property value of homes owned by neighbors – causing the overall community to be economically depressed. The practice of neglecting foreclosed properties in African American and Latino communities increases the economic divide, perpetuates segregation, and denies people within these communities the right to fair and safe housing.