Michigan housing provider agrees with HUD on discrimination lawsuit
Michigan housing provider agrees with HUD on discrimination lawsuit

The federal government announced Friday that it had reached an agreement with a Michigan housing provider to resolve a discrimination claim based on the status of a woman who was a victim of intimate partner violence and stalking.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said it has resolved allegations that Saginaw-based Czapp Real Estate, LLC denied housing to a woman because of her disability and her status as a survivor of the Violence Against Women Act. The company will pay the woman $8,500 and take steps to ensure it continues to comply with the law in the future, department officials said.

A complaint was filed with HUD in January alleging that Czapp Real Estate failed to respond to the woman’s rental application because of her visual impairment and because she said a previous lease had been terminated due to intimate partner violence and stalking. The company violated the Violence against Women Reauthorization Act of 2022 by refusing to verify the act’s information, the government said.

In addition, the woman alleged that Czapp violated a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 that prohibits discrimination against a person on the basis of disability in the rental conditions or privileges of an apartment.

The company denied the violations but agreed to the settlement. A woman who answered the phone at Czapp’s office on Friday declined to comment.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. Under the Violence Against Women Act, residents of housing programs cannot be denied housing or lose benefits because of domestic violence, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

“We are committed to enforcing the rights enshrined in VAWA and the Fair Housing Act and to ensuring equal access to housing for all,” said Demetria L. McCain, HUD’s assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, in a statement. “Today and every day, HUD takes action to eradicate housing discrimination and protect survivors and their families. This agreement puts housing providers on notice that they must comply with the law.”

Under the agreement, Czapp will pay the woman $8,500 and take steps to ensure its policies, practices and procedures comply with the Violence Against Women Act and the Fair Housing Act, HUD said. The company’s employees will also have to attend training.

HUD has enforcement authority under the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act to protect those who apply for and receive housing assistance through HUD or other federal housing and homeless assistance programs.

The 2022 reauthorization allows HUD to enforce the law using the same process as the Fair Housing Act. It also guarantees individuals the right to call 9-1-1 without fear of losing their housing or other consequences, and it prohibits housing providers from retaliating against those who exercise their rights. These protections apply regardless of sex, gender identity and sexual orientation, according to HUD.

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By Isla