The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) has ordered three Plano, Texas landlords to pay damages, civil penalties, and attorney’s fees totaling $140,649 for violating the Fair Housing Act.
The ALJ found that agent Quang Dangtran and property owners Ha Nguyen and HQD Enterprise, LLC refused to rent to a Black woman because of race, made discriminatory statements, placed discriminatory advertisements on Craigslist, and retaliated against the woman because she filed a complaint with HUD. Read the full decision here.
“The ALJ’s decision recognizes the significant pain and real harm that results when housing providers violate the Fair Housing Act,” said Demetria L. McCain, HUD's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Fighting illegal discrimination in housing, whether overt or covert, continues to be a top priority for HUD.”
“This decision reminds property owners that HUD will hold them accountable for their own housing discrimination and the discrimination of their rental agents,” said Damon Smith, HUD’s General Counsel. “Landlords must establish clear policies against racial and other discrimination.”
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, and familial status. This includes making discriminatory statements, publishing discriminatory advertisements, misrepresenting the availability of rental housing, and refusing to negotiate with or rent to someone because of their race. Property owners are responsible for violations of the Act that their agents commit.
On June 25, 2019, HUD filed a charge of discrimination on the woman’s behalf alleging that Dangtran, Nguyen and HQD Enterprise, LLC, violated the Fair Housing Act because of race. In late 2019, after HUD prevailed on partial summary judgment, the landlords retaliated against the woman by filing a state court claim against her alleging that she had engaged in slander and abuse of process. A Texas judge dismissed the state court case and HUD amended its Charge of Discrimination to include a retaliation claim.
The ALJ found that Dangtran refused to allow the woman to see the advertised room, told her that his wife would be uncomfortable with her living in the home because she is Black, and told her that the room was already rented when, in fact, the room was still available for rent. The ALJ found further that the landlords posted advertisements on Craigslist that specifically asked interested home seekers to specify their race. The ALJ determined that the landlords violated the Fair Housing Act by posting a discriminatory housing advertisement, making a discriminatory statement, misrepresenting the availability of rental housing, refusing to negotiate with or rent to the woman because of her race, and retaliating against her because she filed a housing discrimination complaint.
The ALJ ordered Respondents to pay a total of $140,649.36: $79,782.75 in compensatory damages to the woman, $49,472 in civil penalties, and $11,394.61 in attorneys’ fees. The ALJ also ordered Respondents to attend Fair Housing Act and cultural sensitivity training, adopt a non-discrimination policy, and adopt equal housing opportunity language in future advertisements and rental documents.