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Detroit Lakes landlord hit with $44,000 fine for discriminating against mentally disabled

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that a HUD administrative law judge ruled against a northern Minnesota landlord charged with refusing to rent an apartment to prospective tenants because of their disabilities.

Landlord Deane Woodard of Detroit Lakes was ordered to pay $27,000 to one woman, a $16,000 civil penalty, and $1,000 in other court sanctions.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of a dwelling on the basis of disability. Housing providers may not refuse to rent to persons with disabilities.

“Refusing to rent to someone simply because they have a disability is not only wrong, it’s illegal,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “This order sends a clear message to housing providers that HUD remains committed to ensuring that they abide by the nation’s fair housing laws.”

In August 2015, HUD charged property manager Deane Woodard with making discriminatory statements to a prospective tenant and her roommate, and refusing to rent a home in Detroit Lakes to them because they have mental disabilities.

In an order earlier this year, the administrative law judge found that Woodard had violated the Fair Housing Act. Prior to learning about the prospective tenants’ mental disabilities, he had agreed to rent to them and had even provided them with a key to the house.

However, when the woman, her parents, and her roommate drove to the house to give the manager a security deposit and begin the process of moving in, Woodard told the group that the woman and her friend could not rent the property because of their disabilities.

Among other statements, the manager told the women that the owner “did not want a bipolar in the house.”

In addition to damages and penalties, the order bars the manager from discriminating against future applicants because they have disabilities and requires him to take fair housing training.

Disability remains the most common basis of housing discrimination complaints filed with HUD and its partner agencies. Last year alone, HUD received 4,548 disability-related complaints, or nearly 55 percent of all complaints.

People who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY).

Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to www.hud.gov/fairhousing, or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple and Android devices.

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