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FHC Director Pamela Kisch and Harry Tyus. Photo courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

Tyus v Fairway Trails

#W04-57 | Location: Ypsilanti | Court Level: Federal | Settlement: $50,000

Categories: Income Source, Physical Disability, Rental
Tags: Reasonable Accommodation, Retaliation, Social Security

When Harry Tyus accepted $50,000 to settle his claim against Fairway Trails Apartments, FHC aided settlements went over the $1,000,000 mark. The Tyus v Fairway Trails victory was a group effort involving the Fair Housing Center, Legal Services of South Central Michigan, Washtenaw County Circuit Court, an FHC Cooperating Attorney, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and ultimately the U.S. Department of Justice.

After living in the Fairway Trails Apartments for three months Harry Tyus asked if, instead of the first week of the month, he could pay his rent after his Social Security disability check arrived. Fairway Trails refused and sent him an eviction notice. Legal Services of South Central Michigan attorney Henry Wolfe responded to the eviction with fair housing counter claims. In October 2004 Washtenaw County Judge John B. Collins ordered the complex to accommodate Mr. Tyus’ disability by accepting his rent later in the month without penalty. Fairway Trails responded by refusing to renew Mr. Tyus’ lease, forcing him to move.

FHC worked with Mr. Tyus to file a complaint with HUD alleging retaliation. When contacted by a local HUD investigator Fairway Trails offered Mr. Tyus $300 to settle the claim. Mr. Tyus refused their offer. HUD attorneys in the Chicago Regional Office again tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a settlement. The HUD regional office gave Mr. Tyus the option of taking his case to the U.S. Department of Justice. In May 2006 Judith Levy, Assistant U.S. Attorney in Detroit, filed suit claiming that Fairway Trails retaliated against Mr. Tyus for making a fair housing complaint.

FHC cooperating attorney J. Mark Finnegan represented Mr. Tyus. The case was assigned to Judge John C. O’Meara of the U.S. Federal District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division. “Our country’s civil rights laws require not only freedom from discrimination, but also freedom from retaliation for those who seek to exercise their civil rights,” wrote the U.S. Department of Justice about the Tyus case.

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