As we have written about in previous entries, included in the protected classes of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) is familial status. That means, families with children (and women who are pregant as well as families who will be adopting a child) cannot be discriminated against because of the children. We see regular reminders that familial status is either still not understood or that the law may not be followed.
To illustrate, in mid-December, 2008, residents of Pelican Lake Village (located in Pahokee, Florida), allegedly received a notice directing that any residents with children living or staying at the apartment community under the age of 18 must vacate by January 1, 2009 or face immediate eviction. The notice came shortly after management at Pelican Lake Village allegedly leased a majority of the units to a not for profit organization which was created, at least in part, so it could rent the majority of the apartments at Pelican Lake Village to former prison inmates, many of whom were sex offenders.
Allegedly, the notice caused numerous families to seek other housing during the holiday season, and the families with children who did not move by January 1, 2009 learned that management had stopped school bus stop service to the complex.
On September 2, 2010, the Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches commenced a civil action in the United Sated District Court Southern District of Florida, Whyte, et. al. v. Alston Management, Inc. et al., seeking a declaratory judgment and damages for discrimination on the basis of familial status under the FHA and Florida common law. The attorney representing the Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches describes the case as the most egregious case of housing discrimination he has seen, as it is the first time he has seen the “wholesale eviction” of a class of people.
While there are always two sides to every case and we here at the Fair Housing Defense blog want to hear from management, the complaint reflects yet another cautionary tail about how to act (and not act) with your residents.