A Mandan family that was forced from their townhome due to the birth of an additional child settled its complaint for unlawful housing discrimination, with assistance from High Plains Fair Housing Center. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has issued a conciliation agreement that requires the owner, Affordable Housing Developers, Inc., to pay $100,000 to resolve the claim, attend fair housing training and distribute information to their tenants about the Fair Housing Act. Respondents deny that they have engaged in any discriminatory acts, and expressly deny all liability, but entered into the agreement to settle the matter. The housing discrimination complaint asserted that the landlord discriminated based on familial status, in violation of federal and state law, by enforcing unreasonable occupancy standards. Affordable Housing Developers non-renewed the family’s lease and served a notice to vacate their townhome in Mandan, ND, after the mother reported the birth of a child.
The case began in the spring of 2021, when federally-funded Trails West Townhomes in Mandan gave a working mother and her 5 children a non-renewal and a 30-day notice to vacate after she updated her lease indicating that she had given birth the previous fall. The management cited an occupancy limit of 1.5 people allowed per bedroom in the townhome. The mother had never been late on rent or incurred a lease violation in the previous 4 years of her tenancy at the property. She was a nurse in the community and paid the full market rate rental rate. All of the children in the household were under the age of 10 and were not in violation of city code occupancy standards for the 3-bedroom, 1,572 square foot townhome.
After she contacted High Plains Fair Housing Center, the nonprofit worked to mediate with Affordable Housing Developers on her behalf to keep her family housed, providing the owner with education about how the situation violated federal and state fair housing laws. After failed efforts, the working mother was given until the end of May to vacate the premises. When the only other housing she could find suitable for her family in Mandan required her to make more money, she took a traveling nurse job that was in Fargo to earn the income required to qualify. Unfortunately, the new landlord required two to three months of paystubs before she could move in and she was required to be out of the townhome in one month’s time. Facing homelessness, the mother of 5 was able to secure temporary housing with family in Fargo. She had no choice but to uproot her family and move out of the area, causing immeasurable damages to her and her young children.
“Strict and numerical occupancy standards applied to families with children under the age of 18 exclude large families from available housing. Evicting, non-renewing, or excluding families due to the birth of a child means those families lose access to their communities, jobs, good schools, and places of worship and is against the law.” Said Michelle Rydz, Executive Director of High Plains Fair Housing Center. Fair Housing means that all persons have the right to obtain and enjoy the housing of their choice, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or whether they have children. In North Dakota, receipt of public assistance, age (over 40), and marital status are also protected under state law. Limiting or restricting access to housing or treating individuals differently based on these factors is against the law. High Plains Fair Housing Center is a private, non-profit fair housing organization whose mission is to strengthen communities and to ensure equal access to fair housing, if you think you are experiencing housing discrimination in North Dakota, please contact High plains at 701-203-1077 or visit www.highplainsfhc.org.