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Jackson landlord charged with violating Fair Housing Act

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced Tuesday that it is charging a Jackson landlord with violating the Fair Housing Act for allegedly refusing to rent an apartment to a woman and her young daughter.

According to a release from HUD, the Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to rent or to impose different rental terms on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status.

"Refusing to rent housing to families with children is against the law unless the property legally qualifies as housing for older persons," said Bryan Greene, HUD's Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity in the release. "HUD will continue to take action against property owners who discriminate against prospective tenants because of their family status."

The complaint supplied by HUD listed Bradford Strom and Sarah Strom as the respondents. The subject property is comprised of a retail store on the first floor and three residential rental units are two-bedroom, while one is a one-bedroom.

According to the charges, the woman contacted the owner after seeing an advertisement in a local newspaper for a one-bedroom apartment. The complainant moved back to Jackson in July 2012 and began to look for rental housing. When she told the owner that the unit was for her and her 1-year-old daughter, the owner allegedly said that he had rented to families before and it "just doesn't work."

During HUD's investigation, the owner admitted that he told the woman he preferred to rent the apartment to adults, not families with children. Two weeks after turning the woman down, the owner rented the apartment to an applicant without minor children. The lease included a provision limiting the unit to one person only.

HUD's charge will be heard by a United States administrative law judge, unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, damages may be awarded to the family.

The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief to prevent further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose fines in order to vindicate the public interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages to aggrieved persons.