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Fair Housing in Action

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In November 2003, a federal judge ordered an Illinois doctor to pay $15,445 to the family of an U.S. Air Force captain for refusing to rent the family a house because of its three young children.

In July 2000, Air Force Captain Dale Van Dyke, his wife Jennifer, and their three young children relocated to Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, and sought off-base housing. They were looking for a safe neighborhood, good schools, and a yard for the children.

Mrs. Van Dyke telephoned Dr. Kenneth Brosh to inquire about a home advertised for rent in Belleville, Illinois. Dr. Brosh described the property and then asked Mrs. Van Dyke the number and ages of her children. Mrs. Van Dyke replied that she had three children, ages two, four, and six. Dr. Brosh responded that he did not like to rent to families with small children because, "they are destructive and have a tendency to be creative on the walls with their crayons." Mrs. Van Dyke asked Dr. Brosh if he was aware that his comments were illegal. Dr. Brosh responded with additional sarcastic comments, and Mrs. Van Dyke ended the call.

The Van Dykes remained in temporary housing for another seven days before moving to another house that didn't well suit their needs.

The Housing Department of the US Air Force initially investigated the case, but found no violation of its housing discrimination rules. The Van Dykes filed a complaint with HUD in October 2000. HUD's investigation supported the Van Dykes allegations, and the Department filed a charge of discrimination on January 28, 2002. Dr. Brosh exercised his option to have the case tried in U.S. District Court. The Department of Justice took over the case, on behalf of the government, and filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois on April 26, 2002.

The matter came to trial on September 22, 2003. The Department of Justice subpoenaed HUD investigators Merilyn Brown and Alean Jackson to testify about the evidence they collected and interviews they conducted during the HUD investigation. Dr. Brosh admitted to the court that he did not want to rent to a family with small children. He argued that the Van Dykes, however, had not suffered any harm as a result of his action.

The court thought different. On November 20, 2003 the court ruled that Dr. Brosh had violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent to the Van Dykes because of their familial status, and by making discriminatory statements. The court ordered Dr. Brosh to pay the Van Dykes $15,445 in damages to compensate them for emotional distress, the costs of temporary housing, and moving expenses. The court further required Dr. Brosh to maintain records of advertisements of rental property, records of current tenants, and addresses of past tenants for a period of five years.

This outcome would not have been possible without the hard work of HUD's Chicago field office. In particular, HUD recognizes Merilyn Brown, Attorney Advisor, and Alean Jackson, Equal Opportunity Specialist, for their superior commitment in HUD's ongoing fight for fair housing.

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