Apartment Complex Sued for “No Felony” Policy

Fair Housing Center of Southeast & Mid Michigan
PO Box 7825, Ann Arbor, MI 48107 (877) 979-FAIR www.fhcmichigan.org


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 31, 2020

Media Contacts: Attorney William F. Piper 269-321-5008
A copy of the complaint can be found here.

Apartment Complex Sued for “No Felony” Policy


On February 26, 2020, The Fair Housing Center of Southeast & Mid Michigan filed a race discrimination lawsuit against Erie Investments owner of Red Lion Apartments, in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The site is the former Lakeshore Apartments. The suit alleges that by having a “no felony” policy the owner knew or should have known that it would have a disparate impact on African-American tenants and potential tenants. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, alleges violations of the Fair Housing Act.

The suit alleges that Defendants’ “elevation of criminal history as an absolute bar to residency
without consideration of other eligibility criteria for tenancy is also counter to other normal
business practices in the apartment industry. In the normal course of business, consideration of income, prior rental history, credit, and other factors occurs simultaneously during the application process, and after an application has been submitted and reviewed.”

According to an MLive article from April 3, 2019:

“Erie Investments has purchased and renovated multiple troubled apartment
complexes in Ypsilanti Township. Now, the company is making its effort to rehab a mismanaged, section 8 complex in the city of Ypsilanti and market it to Eastern Michigan University Business School students”

The student body of EMU is only 17% African-American compared to the City of Ypsilanti
which is over 30% Black.

Mike Radzik, director of community standards for Ypsilanti Township, told MLive that Erie
Investments “typically.. will implement strict rental standards.”

“A landlord’s wish to be ‘strict’ towards prospective tenants does not give them the right to
violate federal law,” said Pamela A. Kisch Executive Director of the Fair Housing Center. “2016
HUD Guidelines make it clear that property agents must look at each person on an individual
basis. How long ago did the felony occur? How old was the person at the time? What has this
person accomplished with his or her life since that time?”

The Fair Housing Center has taken numerous complaints of discrimination based on criminal
background. Some include bans on individuals who have arrest records.

The Fair Housing Center is represented by FHC Cooperating Attorney William F. Piper of Piper Law in Portage, Michigan.

The Fair Housing Center of Southeast & Mid Michigan, founded in 1992, actively protects the civil rights of those who are discriminated against in the rental, sale, or financing of housing through investigation, education, advocacy, and legal action. The FHC takes an average of 180 complaints each year from its eight-county service area – Clinton, Eaton, Ingham, Jackson, Lenawee, Livingston, Monroe, and Washtenaw.

The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.

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New Fair Housing Disability Lawsuit Settled in Livingston County

Fair Housing Center of Southeast & Mid Michigan
PO Box 7825, Ann Arbor, MI 48107 (877) 979-FAIR www.fhcmichigan.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2020

Media Contacts: Pam Kisch, (734) 272-8383; Attorney Francyne Stacey, (734) 545-4883
A copy of the filed complaint is available upon request.


New Fair Housing Lawsuit Settled in Livingston County


Scott Lorms settled his lawsuit based on disability discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. The amount of the settlement is not disclosed. The lawsuit alleged that T & R Properties and
Zahler Management denied him the right to rent an apartment with his emotional support animals(ESAs). Mr. Lorms has a disability as defined under the Fair Housing Act.

According to the complaint taken by the Fair Housing Center of Southeast & Mid Michigan
(FHC), Mr. Lorms called T & R Properties on November 27, 2018, to inquire about a rental unit in Pinckney. Based on the size, location, and price of the duplex, Mr. Lorms thought the property was perfect for him and his family. The home was close enough to Ann Arbor to visit with friends and family and was a short commute to Mr. Lorms’ job in South Lyon.

Mr. Lorms alleged that after he explained to the agent that he had emotional support dogs –
which are not considered pets under the Fair Housing Act – the rental agent ended the call
because the company had a “No dogs allowed policy”.

Mr. Lorms then called the Fair Housing Center and filed a complaint. Testing by the FHC
supported his claim. Lorms first elected to have the Fair Housing Center resolve the complaint
without legal action; it was not successful.

Because they were denied housing, Mr. Lorms and his family had to rent more expensive
housing that was much further away from his work, friends, and family.

Under the Fair Housing Act, it is unlawful to discriminate in the sale or rental, or to otherwise
make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any buyer or renter because of a disability of that buyer or renter. Discrimination is defined in the Act to include refusing “to make reasonable
accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services” when necessary to afford such person
with a disability an “equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.”

Fair Housing Center Cooperating Attorney Francyne B. Stacey filed the fair housing complaint
in U.S. Federal District Court on July 31, 2019. The case was assigned to the Honorable Nancy
G. Edmunds. The case was resolved, on February 11, 2020, for an undisclosed amount.


Scott Lorms and dogs

Photograph: Lorms with Curiz and Riley. Photograph provided by Scott Lorms. Higher resolution photos available upon request

The Fair Housing Center of Southeast & Mid Michigan, founded in 1992, actively protects the civil rights of those who are discriminated against in the rental, sale, or financing of housing through investigation, education, advocacy, and legal action. The FHC takes an average of 160 complaints each year from its eight-county service area – Clinton, Eaton, Ingham, Jackson, Lenawee, Livingston, Monroe, and Washtenaw.

The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.

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COVID-19 Housing Resources

Congress passed a $2 trillion relief bill, but that money won’t be available before many of us have to make rent and utility payments on April 1st. Much of the relief is also one-time payments and we all have recurring expenses. That’s why we are sharing this template for an email or text you can send to your landlord and are including some additional resources on what’s in the relief bill so you can plan for the future. Thank you to our friends at the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center for much of this content.

Sample Email/Text to Your Landlord

Hi ________, I hope you are safe and healthy. I wanted to keep you updated about my situation. I have lost income/work/my job because of the COVID-19 crisis and cannot afford to pay my April rent at this time. Would you be willing to:

1. Waive April late fees?

2. Agree not to evict me for not being able to pay April rent on time, and instead agree that after the Governor lifts the stay at home order, we will work out a repayment agreement that works for both of us?

Most mortgage holders can qualify for a forbearance because of COVID-19. If you receive a forbearance from your lender, would you also be willing to not charge me rent for those months?

Thanks for your flexibility and understanding,
Your Name

What’s in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act?

For Renters and Homeowners

For Homeowners and Landlords

  • The CARES Act makes it possible for anyone with a federally backed mortgage, to request up to a six month forbearance with no penalties, with the option to extend another six months.
  • Find out if you have a federally backed mortgage.
  • Make sure to contact your mortgage servicer, as all financial institutions are being encouraged to offer forbearance plans to their customers.

Now more than ever, this virus has shown us that we are dependent on each other. Please share this information widely and we appreciate everything you’re doing to take care of your family, neighbors, and community. 

And, as always, if you believe you have been the victim of housing discrimination, or you would like to run a situation by us, please email complaints@fhcmichigan.org, or call us at 877-979-FAIR (3247).

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Canceled: Fair Housing Breakfast

Letter sent 3/12/2020 to Breakfast Ticket Holders:

Dear Friends, 

Regrettably, after monitoring the COVID-19/Coronavirus outbreak and much careful consideration, we must announce that next Thursday’s Fair Housing Breakfast has been canceled.

As you likely know, Governor Whitmer just issued a state of emergency, and public health officials are recommending that large events like ours be canceled. 

This being the most critical yearly fundraiser for our small nonprofit, I am sure you can understand what a heavy decision this was. However, attendees are our first and foremost concern and we do not want to contribute to additional risk of exposure to the virus or place anyone in a potentially harmful situation.

We have arranged with our guest speaker Lisa Rice to still present her talk remotely. We’re still working out the details, but the talk will be made available to you either via live webinar or a recording posted on our website. 

For those of you eligible for CE credit, the webinar will still be approved for one credit hour. We will follow up with further instruction on how to receive appropriate credit. 

We hope you will consider converting your breakfast ticket payment into a membership (if not already a member) or additional donation to support the Fair Housing Center; if this is your wish, there is no need to respond. If you need to be issued a refund, please reply to this email no later than March 26th.

We are still extremely grateful for our sponsors (see below). Visit this link to view the event program. 

Please leave a message at 877-979-3247 with any questions or concerns. We will do our best to return messages within one business day. Thank you for your understanding in the interest of public health.  

Be well, 

Fair Housing Center Staff

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Realtors: Receive CE credit for FH Breakfast! (CE Marketplace)

We are pleased to announce that the 7th Annual Fair Housing Breakfast has been approved for 1-hour non-legal elective CE credit by CE Marketplace!

To receive credit, Michigan licensed real estate salespersons/brokers will need to bring their NRDS/license number and last 4 digits of their SS# to complete an attendance verification form at the event.

The event will be held at Weber’s Inn in Ann Arbor the morning of Wednesday, March 19th.

Tickets and information can be found at www.fhcmichigan.org/breakfast.

Interested in sponsorship? Click here for details.

Questions? Call Kristen at 877-979-FAIR (3247).

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