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Soules v. U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development

    Brief Fact Summary. The Petitioners, Mrs. Soules and Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Inc. (Petitioners), brought this suit against the Respondents, the United States Department of Housing & Urban Development (Respondents), asking the court to overturn a ruling by an Administrative Law Judge who dismissed discrimination claims under sections 3604(a) and (c) of the Fair Housing Act (the Act).

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Administrative Law Judges decision was supported by a substantial amount of the evidence, which is the standard of review for this appeal.

    Facts. Mrs. Soules attempted to lease an apartment from a realty company. Pursuant to a New York law requiring separate bedrooms for children of different gender over five, the realty company inquired about the age and number of children that would occupy the apartment. However, the reason the realty company gave to Mrs. Soules for the inquiry was that there was an elderly lady living above the apartment concerned about noise. Eventually the apartment in question was rented to someone with no children. The Petitioners sued under the Act. The Administrative Law Judge found no violations of the Act and the Petitioners appealed for review.

    Issue. Whether Petitioners met the burden of proof for their Fair Housing Claims.

    Held. Review denied. The Administrative Law Judge’s decision was supported by a substantial amount of the evidence.
    Section 3604(a) of the Act makes it unlawful to discriminate upon race, familial status, or national origin. A claimant must establish a prima facie case. If they do, the respondent must give a legitimate reason for the refusal to rent. Then the burden shifts to the claimant to show the reason offered by the respondent is not pretextual.
    In this case, the reason for the question regarding how many children was legitimate and pursuant to New York law. Further evidence demonstrated that Mrs. Soules was combative and uncooperative. This is sufficient to defeat this claim.
    Section 3604(c) of the Act makes it unlawful for a housing advertisement or statement to contain impermissible preferences for tenants.
    The analysis here focuses on whether “an ad for housing suggests to an ordinary reader that a particular race is preferred or dispreferred for the housing in question.” Here, the statements (whether the child was noisy) are not facially discriminatory, so the court must look at other evidence.
    Here, the question was appropriate because a noisy child could become a nuisance and be grounds for eviction.

    Discussion. The court discussed the standard of review for the review of an Administrative Law Judge’s decision. The court outlines the standards and analytical framework for claims under Section 3604(a) and (c) of the Act and whether in this case the claimant had met the standard.


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