WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it is charging Leaf Property Investment, LLC, Sam Leaf and Dennis Parker, owner and managers of a 19-unit rooming house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with discriminating against a former male tenant because of his sexual orientation and disability. Read the charge here.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits harassment of tenants and other housing discrimination because of race, sex, color, national origin, disability, religion, and familial status. As HUD stated in memoranda published last year following the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act includes discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity.
HUD’s Charge of Discrimination alleges that Parker, the property manager, harassed the tenant because of his sexual orientation and disabilities. The Charge alleges that Parker’s harassing conduct included making unwelcome, sexually aggressive verbal comments; demanding sexual favors; sending unwanted, threatening, and degrading text messages; and using slurs and other demeaning language about the tenant’s sexual orientation and disability. HUD’s Charge also alleges that after the tenant reported the harassment to the local police, Parker retaliated against him by threatening to terminate his tenancy and later punching him in the groin. The Charge further alleges that, as a result of Parker’s illegal actions, the tenant was forced to vacate his unit.
“No one should feel unwelcome or unsafe in the sanctity of their own homes because of their sexual orientation or disability,” said Demetria L. McCain, HUD’s Principal Deputy Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Violating these rights is not only unacceptable, it is illegal.”
“This is an egregious case of harassment because of a tenant’s sexual orientation and disability,” said Damon Smith, HUD General Counsel. “The Department has made clear that the Fair Housing Act protects people from such discrimination, and we will take strong enforcement action to stop housing providers from subjecting their tenants to such unlawful conduct.”
HUD’s charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he or she may award damages to the complainant for his loss as a result of the discrimination. 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 in order to vindicate the public interest. If the case is heard in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages to the complainant.
People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at (800) 669-9777 (voice) 800-927-9275 (TTY) or the Department of Justice at (800) 896-7743 or 202-514-4713. Additional information is available at www.hud.gov/fairhousing and www.usdoj.gov.