WASHINGTON, DC – August 2, 2011 – (RealEstateRama) — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has charged the owner and manager of Breckenridge Plaza Apartments in Phoenixville, PA, with violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against families with children. Breckenridge Plaza, Inc., and Morris Zelikovsky were charged with making discriminatory statements, including in advertisements on craigslist.org, indicating a preference against families with children, offering different rental terms and conditions to families with children, and discouraging families with children from applying for housing.
HUD brings the charge on behalf of the Fair Housing Council of Suburban Philadelphia (FHCSP), a non-profit fair housing organization, which filed a complaint with HUD after FHCSP testers determined that manager Zelikovsky treated same-size households differently by imposing different rental charges when one member of a family was a child. One of the ads placed by Zelikovsky stated: “Winter Special Price for Two Adults.” The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to make statements that express a preference or otherwise discriminate and to impose different rules and restrictions on families with children.
“Charging higher rent to a family because they have children unjustly saddles them with an extra financial burden and violates the Fair Housing Act,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue to take swift action against owners and landlords who impose different terms and conditions on families with children.”
According to HUD’s charge, after FHCSP noticed ads on craigslist.org and in the local newspaper, The Phoenix, indicating that families with children were being charged higher rents than same-size households without children, FHCSP conducted several rental tests. Zelikovsky told a FHCSP tester posing as a mother with a son that she would have to pay $775 for a two-bedroom apartment that had been advertised as renting for $740. Later that same day, Zelikovsky told a different tester posing as a married woman with no children that a two-bedroom apartment rented for $745 a month.
During a different test conducted by FHCSP, Zelikovsky told a tester posing as a married woman with no children that a two-bedroom apartment was $740 a month. Later that day, a tester posing as a mother with a child contacted Zelikovsky about a two-bedroom apartment. When the tester asked Zelikovsky if having a child was going to be a problem, he allegedly said, “It’s just going to be higher at $775 a month.”
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 may award damages to aggrieved persons for the damages caused them by 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 fines in order to vindicate the public interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages to aggrieved persons.
FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate more than 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 (voice), (800) 927-9275 (TTY).
HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov. You can also follow HUD on Twitter at @HUDnews or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HUD.