A Long Island landlord has been fined about $70,000 because he retracted an offer to rent an apartment to a woman after learning her daughter has cerebral palsy, according to an order by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The woman bringing the complaint, whose name was redacted in the order, said she approached the landlord, Alex Raimos, in November 2017, seeking to rent an apartment in Brentwood. Most of the rentals she had seen were either out of her budget or didn’t accommodate her daughter’s needs, the order stated.
The woman submitted a security deposit and planned to move in weeks later. After learning about the daughter’s disability, Raimos delayed the move-in date three times, and in January 2018 told the woman he would not rent to her because of her daughter’s disability, according to the decision.
Instead, her cousin agreed to take the family in after Raimos’ delays left them on the “cusp of homelessness,” according to J. Jeremiah Mahoney, chief U.S. administrative law judge for HUD, who wrote the decision, which was released earlier this month.
The complainant said that after Raimos told her he would not rent to her, even though the apartment didn’t require modifications to meet the family’s needs, he said, “Yeah, sucks right?” according to Mahoney’s decision. The judge called the latter comment “callous” and “indefensible.”
Mahoney said Raimos’ behavior “merits imposition of a maximum civil penalty.
“The outright refusal to rent is arguably the most egregious form of fair housing violation, as it completely denies an individual a valuable housing opportunity. To put complainant and her disabled child through two months of anticipation, excitement and hope only then to take it away because of her child’s cerebral palsy is reprehensible.”
Mahoney noted that Raimos posted 31 Craigslist ads that either explicitly or implicitly discriminated against families with children, which is illegal under the Fair Housing Act.
Refusing to rent to someone due to a person’s disability violated the housing act, which protects people from discrimination in situations such as renting an apartment, buying a home or seeking a mortgage.
“The fact that a landlord would refuse to rent to a family because a child has disabilities is inexcusable,” Damon Smith, HUD’s general counsel, said in a statement.
No one picked up at a phone number listed for Raimos on Tuesday afternoon.
Raimos did not respond to HUD regarding the charges, which were filed against him in June 2021.
HUD said it notified Raimos of a videoconference hearing on damages in January, but he did not attend.
Raimos was ordered to pay $50,530 to the woman for a combination of lost housing opportunity, economic loss and emotional distress. He also was fined $20,111 in civil penalties by HUD.
Ian Wilder, executive director of Long Island Housing Services in Bohemia, said disability cases are often settled before a complaint needs to be filed, so they are not publicized as often. Common examples of accommodations sought include a person with a disability who needs a change in structure to enjoy their housing or a handicapped parking spot.
The case is a reminder for housing providers that they cannot discriminate on the basis of disability, which along with race and source of income, is one of the major categories of housing discrimination, Wilder said.
“I can't imagine the damage done to this family by hearing that badly needed housing was wrongfully yanked away from them based on a disability,” he said. “Hopefully they take some comfort from the formal recognition that they were treated maliciously and illegally.”