HUD Says Landlord Crossed the Line by Requiring Liability Insurance

A West Virginia woman caring for her brother who has autism balked at a landlord’s request shortly after she answered a rental ad for a Charleston apartment.

Before the landlord would sign a lease agreement, he demanded that the woman purchase a $1 million insurance policy to cover any damages or injuries caused by her brother and sign an agreement assuming all legal liability for her brother’s actions.

In addition, the landlord required the woman to obtain a doctor’s note regarding her brother’s condition.

The woman, believing she was being discriminated against, filed a fair housing complaint with HUD. After a hearing, the landlord was ordered to pay $34,000, which includes $18,000 in damages to the woman and $16,000 in civil penalties to the government.

The problem, according to HUD, was not the fact that the landlord demanded the insurance coverage or a special liability clause, but rather that the landlord admitted he does not require non-disabled applicants to meet the same requirements. He also acknowledged his belief that persons diagnosed with autism and mental retardation pose a greater risk in terms of liability.

HUD determined that although the landlord had never met the woman’s brother, he worried that the brother, because he has autism, would start a fire or attack neighbors.

The woman, who is the legal guardian and primary caretaker of her brother, stated, My brother’s one of the most loving persons you’ll ever meet. He’s a human being and the idea he would harm anyone else brings me to tears.

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