Summary of Soules v. HUD, U.S. Ct. of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit (1992)
Parties: Appellant tenant and amicus group Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) v. Agency which created FHAA (HUD)
Cause of action/remedy sought: The following is a legal complaint for violation of FHAA discrimination based on familial status.
Procedural History: Trial court dismissed the claims. On appeal, this court affirms.
Facts: Soules had 1 child and wanted an apartment. Downs was a realtor operating out of her home with the help of Anderson but was solely responsible for selecting tenants. Soules sued when she tried to get an apartment from Downs who asked her whether she had children and how old they were as she was concerned that the tenants who lived on the first floor and were old would be disrupted by noisy children. FHAA prevents discrimination based on familial status.
Soules claimed that Downs discriminated against her because she had a child. Soules contacted Housing Opportunities made Equal of Buffalo. Testers were sent out. One who had no children was given an appointment with Downs, which she canceled. Another (Barnes) who said she had a 7 yr old son was given the address of the apartment but Downs was somewhat uncooperative with her and did say that the elderly tenants would not want a noisy child running around.
Issue(s): Under federal property law, did the ALJ erred in finding that there was no violation of either 3604 (c) or 3604 (a) when the tenant with a child was denied housing and another woman with a child was not denied housing?
Holding: No. The ALJ did not err in finding no violation as the evidence presented by Downs showed that her objective was just to find quiet neighbors.
Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: The court first looked at section 3604 (a). It said the PL needed to show discriminatory effect and that once this was done, then DF had to show that there were permissible reasons for doing so and if DF showed permissible reasons, then PL had to show that they were a pretext. ALJ found that there was a prima facie case but that Downs reason was nondiscriminatory and legitimate. The App ct found that the housing denial by Downs was caused by Soule’s negative attitude and with Barnes it was because she was out of town taking care of her sick relative.
As to 3604 (c), the App ct found that Down’s reasons were not a mere pretext. It found that the questions were not improper in that there was a health code that prevented children older than 5 from sharing a bedroom with someone of a different sex, and that is the reason why Downs asked questions relating to children.
Rule: Under the FHA, discriminatory effect is all that is required to show discrimination for housing.
Did court avoid issues?: No.