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City may have violated Fair Housing Act

Michigan residents may be aware that it is illegal to discriminate when renting or selling property. On Nov. 28, the Justice Department announced that it was suing the city of Springfield, Illinois, for violating the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit alleges that the city discriminated against people with disabilities in the way it treated group homes for those who are disabled. Specifically, the city allegedly tried to close a home that had three disabled residents.

The city claimed that the home violated a 600-foot spacing rule. However, that rule only applies if the home has five or more disabled people living in it. If it is found that Springfield has violated the Fair Housing Act, it could owe victims compensatory damages in addition to civil penalties.

As a general rule, those who are disabled may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation to make housing more accessible to them. If such accommodations are not made, it may be a violation of the Fair Housing Act or other relevant statutes. Landlords are generally not allowed to refuse to rent property to a disabled person unless it would create an unreasonable hardship. It may also be necessary to make the same accommodations for the disabled that are made available to others who may not have a disability.

Failure to abide by the law when it comes to selling or renting property could result in fines or other penalties against landlords and property owners. An attorney may be able to use statements from a landlord, discriminatory language in ads seeking tenants or other evidence to show that a violation occurred. Victims of housing discrimination may be entitled to compensation or other relief as allowed by law.