Owner Not Liable for Discrimination, Privacy Invasion
Facts: A resident sued the owner, manager, and security guard for allegedly violating her rights under the Fair Housing Act. One morning, the site’s security guard detained three young boys who had placed traffic cones in the street and told them to sit on the curb while he contacted their parents. Seeing these events, the resident approached the guard, who asked if she was a parent to one of the boys. She said she was not. The guard instructed her to leave, but she refused, responding that she was “not a slave” and this was “not a plantation.” The guard warned her again to leave the area or else he would arrest her. The resident ignored the warning and continued to interfere with the guard by again challenging his authority. He attempted to arrest her, but she struggled during the arrest. Eventually, the guard pinned her on the ground and arrested her. She was charged with resisting law enforcement.
Approximately two weeks later, the management sent the resident a notice of termination informing her that because she had engaged in criminal activity, she had to vacate her unit within 30 days. When she didn’t vacate the unit, the management began eviction proceedings against her in court. She later was acquitted of the misdemeanor charge, and the site dropped the eviction proceedings. The resident was never evicted.
Later, the resident signed a new lease with the site. One of the clauses stated: “The Tenant agrees to permit the Landlord, his/her agents or other persons, when authorized by the Landlord, to enter the unit for the purpose of making reasonable repairs and periodic inspections.” In accordance with the clause, on July 9, 2008, the management notified the resident of an upcoming inspection five days later. The notice listed the correct date of the inspection (July 14) but incorrectly identified the day of the week as Wednesday instead of Monday. The site manager and a HUD agent inspected her unit as planned on July 14. The resident wasn’t present, but four of her minor children were home alone.
Invoking the Fair Housing Act, the resident sued, alleging that her arrest lacked probable cause and involved excessive force, that the defendants attempted to evict her because of her race, and that the inspection of her unit violated her privacy. The management and the security guard asked the court for a ruling in their favor without a trial. The district court granted their request, and the resident appealed.
Ruling: The Seventh Circuit appeals court upheld the district court’s ruling.
Reasoning: The court determined that the resident’s invasion-of-privacy claim failed because she presented no evidence establishing that the inspectors intruded upon her physical seclusion in a way that would be offensive or objectionable to a reasonable person, since she signed a lease consenting in advance to periodic inspections of her unit and she was given advance notice of the upcoming inspection. Also, the resident failed to submit any evidence to support her remaining claims.
- Williams v. Gene B. Glick Company, January 2013