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Charging 'Retaliation,' HUD Takes Case of Disabled Renter

Harry Tyus wanted to pay his rent. The problem was his Social Security check didn't come on time.

Each month he was a few days late, and the apartment management company for the Fairway Trails Apartments in Ypsilanti, MI, charged him a $50 late fee each time.

Tyus asked property manager Nicole Morbach if he could please pay his rent a few days late, without incurring the late fee. Morbach refused.

Tyus brought his problem to the Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan, which contacted Fairway Trails, asking that they make a "reasonable accommodation" for Tyus's disability.

Nope. "Doing so would result in extending a preference," they said, and denied the request.

This was back in 2004.

From HUD's news information service:

In July 2004, when rent was not paid on time Fairway Trails Apartments started the process to evict [Tyus]. Despite the rent and the late fee being paid on July 22, Fairway continued the eviction process.

In October 2004, a Michigan court agreed that Tyus should have received the rent reset as a reasonable accommodation. The judge also ruled that Fairway Trails Limited L.P. was not entitled to a late fee for the previous two months and that the pay date would be reset.

Unhappy with the court ruling, Fairway Trails Limited L.P. informed Tyus in October 2004 that they would not renew his lease when it expired in January 2005.

Last week, HUD announced that it has charged Morbach, the management company Benchmark Management Corporation and Fairway Trails Limited, L.P. with a violation of the Fair Housing Act, for retaliation against Tyus.

According to HUD's press release, "Housing discrimination charges heard before an administrative law judge carry a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 for a first offense, in addition to actual damages for the complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorneys’ fees. Sanctions can be more severe if a respondent has a history of housing discrimination. If either party elects to go to federal district court, either party may request a jury trial, and punitive damages may be awarded."

Read HUD press release.