Herman & Kittles Properties, Inc. charged with non-compliance for reasonable accommodation

The Executive Director of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission (“Commission,”) pursuant to statutory authority and procedural regulations, hereby issues the following findings with respect to case HOha14120961 against Herman & Kittles Properties, Inc./Franklin Place Apartments.  Reasonable cause exists to believe that an unlawful discriminatory practice occurred in this instance.  A Charge is therefore issued in accordance with 910 IAC 2-6-6(b).

There are multiple issues pending before the Commission.  The first issue before the Commission is whether Respondent evicted Complainant because she has a disability as contemplated under the law. 

By way of background, Complainant began her tenancy with Respondent on or about January 1, 2014.  At all times relevant to the Complaint, Complainant’s lease prohibited threats, intimidation, or harassment toward Respondent’s employees, guests, and other residents.  The lease also provided that all rule violations constitute a breach of lease which could result in the termination of the lease and possible eviction proceedings.  Complainant was aware of these provisions as evidenced by her signature on the lease on or about January 1, 2014.  Nonetheless, Complainant failed to meet Respondent’s legitimate tenancy expectations.  Specifically, during her tenancy, Respondent received numerous complaints from other tenants and staff regarding Complainant’s behavior.  Evidence shows that on or about March 26, 2014, Respondent received a complaint from another resident alleging that Complainant was seen screaming and yelling at kids on the playground.  Shortly thereafter, on or about April 5, 2014, Respondent received another complaint from a resident asserting that Complainant forced her way into his apartment while intoxicated and started a fight with his wife.  Less than a month later, on or about April 21, 2014, Respondent observed Complainant screaming and using explicit language toward staff.  Similarly, Complainant wrote the following on her own vehicle regarding Respondent: “Franklin Place Apartments have…black toxic mold. Stan Burton is a Slumlord.”  After several additional instances of Complainant engaging disturbing, threatening, and belligerent behavior toward staff and other residents, Respondent filed eviction proceedings on or about May 9, 2014 for disturbing the quiet enjoyment of other residents.   Ultimately, the proceedings were dropped after Complainant voluntarily vacated the premises on or about June 5, 2014. 

Despite Complainant’s assertions, there is insufficient evidence to support her claims.  Rather, evidence shows that she engaged in threatening behavior and disturbed the quiet enjoyment of the residence in contravention of Respondent’s policies and procedures.  No evidence has been provided or uncovered to show that similarly-situated tenants without impairment were treated more favorably under similar circumstances.  As such and based upon the aforementioned, there is no reasonable cause to believe that Respondent violated the laws as alleged with respect to the first issue.  Complainant may appeal the above no reasonable cause finding regarding the first issue to the full Commission.

The second issue before the Commission is whether the Respondent unreasonably delayed or denied Complainant’s request for a reasonable accommodation. 

By way of background and at all times relevant to the Complaint, Respondent’s transfer policy prohibited residential transfers between units within the first six months of tenancy.  While Respondent asserts that transfers may be permitted for “medical or Fair Housing reasons,” evidence shows that Respondent denied several requests from Complainant to transfer to another apartment because of her medical condition.  Specifically, on or about January 1, 2014, the first day Complainant moved into Respondent’s residence, Complainant completed a “water damage, moisture, or indoor air quality notification form” indicating that the ceiling had major water damage and that several areas had mold.  Complainant also noted that she had an “allergic reaction to the mold” and listed several symptoms of her condition.  Moreover, Respondent admits that in February 2014, Complainant requested to transfer to another unit because she had a disability which was affected by mold in her apartment.  Shortly thereafter, on or about February 6, 2014, the Johnson County Health Department inspected Complainant’s unit and noted that it could “not specifically see or identify any visible mold” and that “the small discoloration noted on the light fixture in the room adjacent to the bathroom could not be positively identify as mold.”  However, the evaluation also stated that “based on [Complainant’s] own personal concerns for the safety of this apartment, the Johnson County Health Department would encourage [Complainant] to relocate.  The Johnson County Health Department will further suggest to the management of [Respondent] to have this apartment further evaluated for its safety.”  On or about March 5, 2014, the City of Franklin Community Development Specialist conducted another inspection and noted water damage throughout the interior of the apartment.  The inspection further noted that “evidence of prior water intrusion could lead to possible future growth of mold if temperature, humidity, future moisture issues, and the ever present food source of dust/dirt get out of control” and instructed Respondent to “remediate any mold found in the process appropriately” as well as “repair any damage” to the property.  No evidence has been provided or uncovered to show that Respondent made the repairs as requested or engaged in the interactive dialogue process with Complainant regarding her request. 

Despite Respondent’s assertions, there is insufficient evidence to support its claims.   Respondent admits that Complainant requested a reasonable accommodation during her tenancy.  While Respondent asserts that Complainant never disclosed the nature of her disability and did not appear to be disabled, Respondent admits that it was generally aware that Complainant had a disability.  It is important to note that the law does not require a tenant to disclose the prognosis or diagnosis related to a condition; rather, the law requires a Respondent, once put on notice about a possible disability and need for an accommodation, to engage in the interactive dialogue process.   However, no evidence has been provided or uncovered to show that Respondent engaged in this process.  Simply stated, Respondent’s failure to engage in the interactive dialogue process after Complainant requested a reasonable accommodation constitutes a violation of the Fair Housing laws as alleged.

A public hearing is necessary to determine whether a violation of the Indiana Fair Housing Act, the Indiana Civil Rights Law, and/or Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended, occurred in the aforementioned case.