ICRC director issues charge against Lafayette housing provider

INDIANAPOLIS – Jamal L. Smith, in his official capacity as the Executive Director of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission (ICRC), issued a charge today on behalf of a female applicant who was subjected to discriminatory statements when she inquired about renting a property in Lafayette, Indiana. The charge states that there is reasonable cause to believe that an unlawful discriminatory practice occurred in violation of the Indiana Fair Housing Act (Ind. Code § 22-9.5, et seq.) and the Indiana Civil Rights Law (Ind. Code § 22-9, et seq.)

By way of background, the Complainant was searching for a residence for herself, boyfriend and three children – one of which has a disability. During her search, she visited a property at 220 Hickory Street in Lafayette, Indiana.

While there is insufficient evidence that Complainant was denied an opportunity to rent this property, she was allegedly subject to discriminatory statements by the Respondent during her visit.

Complainant alleges that Respondent asked what was “wrong” with her son after learning she received SSI income. After informing Respondent of her son’s disability, he responded “I don’t think we should do this.” Additional testimonial evidence from a current resident at the property substantiates that Respondent made degrading and discriminatory statements about her disabled son including accusing her son of “tearing up his house.” He also threatened to evict the resident because of her son’s disability.

Despite Respondent’s assertions, there is sufficient evidence to show that a discriminatory practice occurred in this instance. Specifically, Respondent’s derogatory statements regarding children with disabilities show a preference for renters without disabled children. Based on the aforementioned, reasonable cause exists to believe that a discriminatory practice occurred as alleged.

A public hearing is necessary to determine whether a violation of the Indiana Fair Housing Act and the Indiana Civil Rights Law occurred. As permitted by 910 IAC 2-6-6(h), Respondents, Complainant, or an aggrieved person on whose behalf the Complaint is filed may elect to have the claims asserted in a civil action under Ind. Code § 22-9.5-6-12 in lieu of an administrative proceeding.