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Fair Housing: HUD Charges Landlord Over Rent Payment Timing

Previous owners allowed a disabled tenant to pay his rent after a disability check arrived, but a new owner refused. HUD calls it a “reasonable accommodation.”

WASHINGTON – According to a charge filed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) against a Georgia landlord, a “reasonable accommodation” under the Fair Housing Act doesn’t have to be some kind of building modification. In this case it referenced only the timing of a rent payment.

HUD charged Tzadik Georgia Portfolio, LLC, and Tzadik Management Group, LLC, housing providers operating in Albany, Georgia, with discrimination. HUD alleges that the companies refused to grant a tenant with disabilities a reasonable accommodation request.

In the Georgia case, the tenant moved into the property on Jan. 31, 2008, and signed a lease that allowed the property manager to charge a penalty if rent wasn’t paid by the fifth day of the month. However, the tenant has a disability that prevents him from working, and a monthly disability check is his only source of income, so he verbally asked the original owner if he could pay his rent late without penalty – immediately after his disability check arrived – and that owner agreed.

The building was later sold, and then next owner also honored the original verbal agreement.

After a third property sale in April 2018, however, the new owner allegedly balked at the late-payment arrangement, and the tenant was charged a $100 penalty in June. The tenant explained the agreement he made with the earlier owners, but the new owner said there wasn’t anything in the files, though it waived the fee that month as a courtesy.

In July, however, the new owner added the late-payment fee and by August 6, the tenant received a notice to quit, according to HUD, saying he would be evicted if he did not pay August’s rent plus $200 in late fees. The situation continued to escalate until HUD became involved.

“HUD is committed to ensuring that individuals with disabilities are protected under the Fair Housing Act,” says HUD Principal Deputy General Counsel Michael Williams. “Providing reasonable accommodations is an essential part of a housing provider’s legal obligation to make housing available to persons with disabilities.”

HUD’s charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge. If the judge finds that discrimination has occurred, he or she may award damages to the complainant for harm caused by the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, payment of attorney’s fees and fines to “vindicate the public interest.”

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