Owner May Be Liable for Discrimination
Facts: A resident with arthritis and an autoimmune disease complained that the lack of heat in her building exacerbated her disability. After code enforcement and Section 8 inspectors inspected the site, the resident claimed that the site management blamed her for the inspection and criticized her for speaking to other residents about problems at the site. She sued the site owner, claiming that after the inspection, the site refused to renew her lease and demanded that she vacate her unit of 18 years, which amounted to harassment, discrimination, and retaliation on the basis of her disability. She claimed that the housing authority threatened to terminate her eligibility for Section 8 benefits and advised her to transfer her Section 8 voucher to another Section 8 owner, all in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
The site owner asked the court to dismiss the case. And the resident asked the court to grant a judgment in her favor without a trial.
Ruling: An Indiana district court refused to dismiss the resident's FHA claim and ordered the trial to continue.
Reasoning: Although the site owner argued that the resident's complaints didn't provide enough information to prove she has a disability that's covered by the FHA, the court concluded that her complaints were sufficient to put the owner on notice that she may have a qualifying disability. To prevail, the resident must ultimately establish that her condition meets the FHA's definition of disability and/or handicap, and that she is substantially limited in a recognized major life activity. But she needn't do so at this stage of the proceedings.
Also, even though the resident hasn't actually been evicted, the court ruled that she could have a claim under the FHA. The fact that the resident hasn't vacated her unit doesn't preclude her ability to proceed on her claims under the FHA.
- Worthington v. Golden Oaks Apts., October 2011