HUD Secretary Julian Castro is charging the owner of a Springfield rental property for violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent an available unit to a family with a child.
The Hernandez family had been residing in a unit with a relative at 27 Loring St. when they were denied the opportunity to rent a unit of their own because they had a two-year-old child and one on the way, according to a press release.
The owner, identified as John DeRaffele, allegedly told the family over the phone that he does not rent to families with children under the age of six because his building is not lead certified, which could be hazardous for children.
State law requires all landlords to seek lead certification for a unit if an eligible family with children under the age of six wishes to live there; denial on this basis is considered a form of discrimination. DeRaffele has also been cited as having this policy in writing as part of his leasing agreement, which is in violation of the Fair Housing Act, and requiring pregnant women to disclose their pregnancy and vacate their unit prior to giving birth.
“In New England, the great majority of our complaints involve familial status and disability,” said Daniel Weaver, chief of the enforcement branch of HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
The Fair Housing Act protects families from facing discrimination based on preferences and limitations set by an owner or landlord.
DeRaffele said he decided not to rent to the family based on their income and feels that they “are just trying to bully people.”
“These people first called in April, gave me no name, and I asked, ‘how many people and what is your income,’ and he said less than $750,” DeRaffele said. “I never discriminated in my life to anyone.”
DeRaffele said he adopted the lease from the previous owner. He purchased the property in 2008.
Weaver said his office found reasonable cause for discrimination after looking at the terms of the lease and calculating the family’s income, which was three times the cost of the rent.
“HUD takes its responsibility to investigate all forms of discrimination and make the appropriate finding in every case,” Weaver said.
The relative of the family faced the threat of eviction after the complaints were reported.
HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Gustavo Velasquez said that the case speaks directly to HUD’s commitment to protecting the rights of families with children.
“No family should be denied the chance to rent the home of their choice or have to live in fear of losing their home simply because they have children,” he said.
This case will be heard by a United States administrative law judge and could result in monetary compensation for the family on behalf of the owner.