Landlords of Dover apartment complex charged with discrimination
By KIMBERLEY HAAS Union Leader Correspondent
Officials are charging those who run White Cliffs at Dover with housing discrimination. (Forrent.com photo)
DOVER — A group of landlords running White Cliffs at Dover has been charged with housing discrimination after it was found they denied families with children the opportunity to rent certain units.
Officials at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allege that MSM Brothers, Inc., owners of the 192-unit apartment complex, and their on-site manager violated the Fair Housing Act by creating and enforcing a policy that prohibited people with children under the age of 10 from renting apartments on the second and third floor. Supporting documents say that in October of 2015, manager Kim Hughes told a woman she and her infant could not be placed in available two-bedroom units on Martha’s Way because of this policy.
The woman reported the incident to an employee at Dover Housing Authority. On Jan. 8, 2016, one of two trained “testers” who are part of the New Hampshire Legal Assistance Fair Housing Project called the office at White Cliffs. Hughes told the tester that children under 10 must live on the ground floor.
When a second tester called on June 21, 2016, Hughes said there was no availability at the complex, and that there was a lengthy waiting list. When the tester mentioned needing two bedrooms because of a nine-year-old, Hughes said White Cliffs’ policy is that children need to be on the ground floor, but that the child was of borderline age.
Officials with the government say that White Cliffs’ records show that two-bedroom apartments were available on the second and third floors during the relevant time period.
HUD officials want White Cliffs to pay a civil penalty and compensate the woman who complained to Dover Housing Authority for her loss of housing opportunities, emotional distress, inconvenience and frustration caused by the enforcement of this policy.
“Families shouldn’t be restricted to particular units of a housing development or subjected to different rental terms just because they have children,” Bryan Greene, HUD’s general deputy assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity said in a Tuesday statement announcing the charges.
The charges will be heard by a U.S. Administrative Law judge unless either party elects for the case to be heard in federal court.
Officials with HUD say approximately 12 percent of the complaints they receive annually allege familial status discrimination.
Phone calls made to the White Cliffs office Wednesday were not returned.