Justice Department alleges Edmonds landlords discriminated against families

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    The U.S. Department of Justice Friday filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington alleging that the owners and manager of three apartment buildings in downtown Edmonds refused to rent units to families with children, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

    Friday’s complaint concerns three apartment buildings – located at 201 5th Ave. N., 621 5th Ave. S., and 401 Pine Street in Edmonds – that are managed by defendant Debbie A. Appleby, of Stanwood, Wash. The properties are owned by three Limited Liability Corporations controlled by Appleby – Apple One, LLC, Apple Two, LLC, and Apple Three, LLC—which are also named as defendants in the suit.

    The complaint alleges that in March 2014, defendant Appleby told a woman seeking an apartment for herself, her husband and their 1-year-old child that the apartment buildings were “adult only” and therefore not available to her family. The complaint also alleges that at various other times from April 2014 to November 2015, defendants advertised their available apartments as being restricted to adults only.

    The family filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which conducted an investigation, issued a charge of discrimination against the defendants, and referred the case to the Department of Justice.

    “Equal access to housing is essential for all Americans, including families with young children,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “Particularly in our tight housing market, landlords must follow the law and make units available without discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or familial status.”

    “The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from denying apartments to families just because they have children,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Many families already face challenges finding affordable housing, and they should not also have to deal with unlawful discrimination.”

    The complaint seeks a court order requiring defendants to cease their discriminatory housing practices, damages for the family that filed the HUD complaint and any other families against whom the defendants discriminated against because they had children, plus civil penalties. Any individuals who have information relevant to this case are encouraged to contact the Civil Rights Division at 1-800-896-7743, Option 96.The case is being jointly handled by trial attorney Kathryn Legomsky for the Civil Rights Division for the U.S. Department of Justice and Assistant United States Attorney J. Michael Diaz for the Western District of Washington.

    You can read the full Justice Department complaint here.

    10 COMMENTS

    1. My daughter and her husband (and baby)were denied one of those apartments too but they didn’t say anything about no children. We couldn’t figure it out because she was one of the first people to view and she and her husband had great jobs. Now she knows.

      • Joy- That is disappointing, but Edmonds is not immune and discrimination eventually touches all of us. We need to take a stand against discrimination and profiling- in their many unjust forms.

    2. I am glad to see our Justice Department stepping up to the plate regarding the huge amount of discrimination in the city of Edmonds, Washington…….This town did not become almost all WHITE by accident…………and most people of color and lesser means are relegated over there by 99/Aurora Avenue (look for more “new” development for in my opinion, poor people and people of color and seniors),……….. the heroin epi center of the state of Washington and crime……

      Thank you so much U.S. Attorney Janet Hayes and all that are working on this……Scratch the surface just a little deeper and you will be amazed. The racism is simply shameful, and especially coming from a town that brags about being a faith based and religious community.

    3. The Justice Dept is simply upholding the law as it currently stands. Great. Sounds like they are concerned about the family status part of the law…families with children. No mention is made of the other elements of discrimination. My guess is if someone complains about discrimination based on the other elements of the law it will be investigated.

      There must be some other law that allows for the 55+ and other “senior” type accommodations that allow these age type restrictions. Can a couple over 55 with a child move into these types of facilities?

      • Darrol — I don’t know the answer to your question, but there are laws that allow senior type accommodations, and the linked PDF complaint to the case outlines them as follows:

        At all times relevant to this Complaint, the Apartment Properties were not housing provided under any State or Federal program specifically designed and operated to assist elderly persons, consistent with the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 3607(b)(2)(A).14.

        At all times relevant to this Complaint, the Apartment Properties were not housing intended for, and solely occupied by, persons aged 62 or older, consistent with the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 3607(b)(2)(B).15.

        At all times relevant to this Complaint, the Apartment Properties were not housing intended and operated for occupancy by persons aged 55 or older, consistent with the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 3607(b)(2)(C)(i)

        (iii), and did not publish and adhere to policies and procedures that demonstrate the intent required under this provision and 24 C.F.R. § 100.306

        • Thanks Teresa for the clarification. I guessed that one could do a seniors only type facility but not an adults only. I would guess an older lady could have a under 55 guy and still qualify for that form of housing. These senior type facilities are likely to be allowed some age restrictions but not the other forms of discrimination.

    4. Why anyone in this day and age would ever want to be a landlord is beyond me. After over 25 years of owning apartments and rental houses, we were never happier than the day we finally unloaded the last one. Rules, laws and regulations are so slanted in favor of tenants anymore. It’s indefensible, unprincipled and quite frankly unconscionable. A tenant can move in and not pay rent, yet the poor landlord still has his bills to pay. Eviction processes can take months. Renters can trash property and cause thousands upon thousands of dollars of damages and face zero accountability.

      Frivolous lawsuits like this one only cause property owners to sell or convert their units to condos. No, discrimination based upon race, religion, etc. is not right. However, if a landlord wishes to market his or her building towards adults they should be allowed to do so. Especially when there are plenty of choices for families.

      Good luck Debbie!!

    5. The issue here is not tenants’ rights, however far they may extend, and whether they are fair and equitable to the prospective landlord. The issue is that this particular applicant was denied the opportunity to become a prospective tenant due to her perceived family situation/status; which is protected by law when seeking housing opportunities. The owner/manager should have known better, and is now facing a lawsuit with merit.

      As for the law’s favoring tenants—one who does not pay rent in full and on time per the rental agreement ceases to become a tenant. He/she is then a squatter. Tenants’ rights are enforceable provided the party remains a tenant. Squatters’ rights are a separate issue. While this may be problematic and frustrating for the landlord, one who is responsible and familiar with the law and who still chooses to rent his/her property should know the risks. This is where credit and reference checks are helpful, though they don’t guarantee the tenancy will be problem-free.

      As for generalizing tenants’ motivations in seeking housing, there are plenty of folks who choose tenancy over home ownership simply for economic reasons. They have no intention of cheating/ misleading the homeowners or apartment managers so that the owners lose money or property Tenants simply want an affordable, safe, comfortable place to live within their economic means. They may, in fact, be saving money in the short term so that they can be future homeowners. This is increasingly hard to do in many parts of Western Washington. After reading the complaint filed in this particular case, the plaintiff took the opportunity to apply for an affordable apartment. She viewed Edmonds as that safe, affordable, comfortable place in which she desired tenancy, and was denied that opportunity—in this case wrongfully and illegally.

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