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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
announced today that it is charging the owner of a 24-unit apartment
building in Holyoke, Massachusetts, with housing discrimination for denying
units to families that have children. HUD’s charge alleges that Nilma
Fichera, who owns and manages New York-based N.A.G. Realty, LLC, violated
the Fair Housing Act when she refused to show or rent apartments to families
with children because she could not certify that the building was free of
lead-based paint.

HUD guidance on the investigation of Fair Housing Act and in its lead
regulations
makes clear that while property owners may tell families about housing
units that have not been remediated for lead paint, the presence of
lead-based paint cannot be used as a reason to refuse to rent.

“Laws to make apartment buildings lead free should not be used
as an excuse to make them child-free,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant
Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue to
enforce the law to ensure that landlords uphold fair housing principles.”
According to HUD’s charge, Fichera posted an ad on Craigslist for a
three-bedroom apartment. In response to the ad, the Housing Discrimination
Project, a non-profit organization located in Holyoke, Massachusetts, that
promotes fair housing, arranged for testers to call the number listed in the
ad. In a phone conversation with one tester who said she had a five-year-old
and a six-year-old, Fichera allegedly said, “This apartment does not have a
lead certificate and the law says I can’t rent to anyone with children under
five.”

HUD’s charge further claims that Fichera refused to show a unit
to another tester with a two-year-old son, because the unit did not have a
lead certificate.

HUD’s charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law
Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in
federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing
that discrimination has occurred, she may award damages to aggrieved persons
for the damages caused them by the discrimination.

The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable
relief to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney fees.
In addition, the judge may impose fines in order to vindicate the public
interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also
award punitive damages to aggrieved persons.

FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program
investigate approximately 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually.
People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should
contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 (voice), (800) 927-9275 (TTY).

***

HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and
quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing
market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for
quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving
quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from
discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business. More information
about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at
www.hud.gov and http://espanol.hud.gov. You can also
follow HUD on twitter @HUDnews, on Facebook
at www.facebook.com/HUD, or sign up for news
alerts on HUD’s News
Listserv
.


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