Fair housing Complaints on the Rise in Northeast Ohio

As Demand for rental housing goes up, apparently, so do fair housing complaints - in Northeast Ohio.

In the May 15, 2009 edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Robert Smith reports that more than twice the number of complaints (and the most recorded in 19 years) in 2007, were filed in 2008 (254 in total). According to Mr. Smith (citing a study by the Housing Research & Advocacy Center of Cleveland), people with physical, mental and emotional disabilities were behind much of the increase. According to the Housing Research & Advocacy Center of Cleveland, complaints by people with disabilities now account for one-third of all fair-housing complaints under state and federal laws that also protect renters and home-seekers from discrimination based on race, sex, religion, and family status. According to the law, “reasonable accommodations” (such as allowing “seeing - eye dogs”, even if no pets are allowed, must be made). Complaints based on race doubled between 2007 and 2008.

Most complaints are mediated through the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, but violators of the Fair Housing Act can face civil action fines of up to $11,500 for the first offense and up to $50,000 for repeated offenses.

In addition, the following, additional penalties may result:

* Unlimited punitive damages if the case proceeds to federal court

* Loss of real estate agent's professional license

* Compensation for actual damages, including humiliation, mental
distress, and loss of housing opportunities

* Equitable relief; for example, access to the housing in question or
providing comparable housing

* Structural changes to make housing facilities accessible.

Further, in order to vindicate the public interest, the following remedies may be sought:

* Prevention of future housing discrimination

* Remedial affirmative activities to overcome housing discrimination

* Reporting requirements

* Monitoring and enforcing activities

Hopefully, the above penalties will give extra incentive (i) for those unaware of the law to consult a legal professional to become aware, and act accordingly; and (ii) for those already aware to stop any discriminatory practices.

For the full Cleveland Plain Dealer story, see: http://www.cleveland.com/news/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/cuyahoga/1242376447184460.xml&coll=2

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