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Ms. Tankson on her wheelchair ramp.

2017 Newsletter

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Case Updates

Cases Settled

Tankson v Randolph Court

FHC Settles Case for Wheelchair User Forced to Crawl into Home

The Fair Housing Center of Southeast & Mid Michigan has assisted in the settlement of a housing discrimination lawsuit against Group Five Management Company and TG Properties LLC, the owners of Randolph Court Apartments in Ann Arbor.

Sarah Tankson, who has a debilitating neurological disorder known as dystonia, contacted the Fair Housing Center in January 2017 for help with a request for reasonable accommodation. Prior to signing a lease at Randolph Court, the manager stated in writing that Ms. Tankson would be able to install a wheelchair ramp upon move in, as she uses a wheelchair and the home she was planning to rent had three steps from the sidewalk to the front door.

According to the lawsuit, once Ms. Tankson moved in, Randolph Court Apartments management told her that “she and health aide [Karen Kelsey] must remove [her temporary ramp] and stow it away after each use.” Because it was not possible for her to stow and then reconstruct the ramp each time she needed to use it, she and her aide complied by removing the materials, thus forcing Ms. Tankson to remain shut in her apartment or crawl out of her unit on days she required outside care. Ms. Tankson missed many medical appointments as a result of being unable to safely leave her apartment, which caused the symptoms of her disability to worsen.

This dire situation forced Ms. Kelsey to redouble her effort to locate a contractor to install a more secure removable wheelchair ramp. These efforts received media attention from WXYZ Channel 7 in Detroit, who did several pieces on the story (available on our website). Thanks to the televised news coverage, a volunteer contractor agreed to construct and install the ramp, and raised contributions to cover the cost of the materials.

The Fair Housing Center worked with Ms. Tankson and the contractor, but management continued to delay the installation by refusing to grant approval for the ramp. The FHC contacted Group Five Management one last time to remind them that the Federal Fair Housing Act requires housing providers to grant permission for tenants who use wheelchairs to install ramps to make the entrance to their units accessible. The Fair Housing Center never received a response.

FHC Cooperating Attorney Steve Tomkowiak filed the lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Tankson in U.S. Federal District Court on March 15, 2017. The case was assigned to the Honorable Sean F. Cox. Ms. Tankson was permitted to have the ramp installed in April, and the lawsuit settled in July 2017.

Court: Federal
Settlement: Non-disclosed

Fair Housing Groups v AMP Residential

Multi-State Property Management Company Named in HUD Complaint

The Fair Housing Center of West Michigan, the Fair Housing Center of Southeast & Mid Michigan, the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, the Fair Housing Center of Southwest Michigan, and the Central Ohio Fair Housing Association settled a fair housing complaint against AMP Residential, an Indianapolis-based property management company that owns and operates properties throughout the United States.

The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in July 2016, alleged that AMP had engaged in systemic discrimination against families case updates with children across 20 properties evaluated in three states by enforcing an occupancy limit of no more than two people per bedroom in each apartment, regardless of the unit’s square footage. Testing by each of the agencies named here confirmed the company-wide policy.

In order to settle the complaint, AMP agreed to pay $207,000, change their occupancy policy to provide equal housing opportunity to families with children, and train their employees and managers across the nation on fair housing each year for the next three years, among other terms to ensure compliance with fair housing laws.

HUD Complaint
Conciliation Agreement: $207,000

Lakin v Fontaine Gardens Apartments

Agent Refused to Discriminate

Chelsae Lakin accepted an undisclosed amount to settle her fair housing case. The suit was filed October 14, 2015 by FHC Cooperating Attorneys Stephen M. Dane and Joseph Wardenski from Relman, Dane, & Colfax with assistance from local Cooperating Attorney Thomas Daniels of Pear, Sperling, Eggan, & Daniels. FHC testing supports rental agent Chelsae Lakin’s claim that her nowformer employers, Sakti and Papri Pramanik, instructed her to discriminate against families with a child. Ms. Lakin contacted the FHC on her first day of work. The case was assigned to the Honorable Thomas L. Ludington.

FHC Board of Directors presented Chelsae Lakin with the first Fair Housing Board of Directors Award at our 2017 Fair Housing Breakfast. Chelsae was honored for “boldly standing up for equal housing opportunity in her role as a housing professional.”

Court: Federal
Settlement: Non-disclosed

Cox v East Bay and Hastings Mutual

Denise Cox and her mother accepted $40,000 to settle their case against Hastings Mutual Insurance Company and East Bay Manufactured Home Community. Citing insurance company breed restrictions, the property refused to allow her to keep her emotional support animal, a pit bull called Kylee. Ms. Cox lived on the property with Kylee for two years without incident. To avoid an eviction from their mobile home, Ms. Cox was forced to be separated from her dog.

The suit against the mobile home community, East Bay, as well as the property’s insurance company, was filed on September 9, 2016 by FHC Cooperating Attorney Steve Tomkowiak. The case was assigned to the Honorable Victoria A. Roberts.

On October 17, 2016, Kylee was allowed to return home. The settlement agreement also included changes in policies by both East Bay Manufactured Home Community and Hasting Mutual Insurance Company. Hasting Mutual agreed to modify its underwriting rules relating to its animal policies and accommodation requests, and undertake staff training regarding assistance animals. East Bay agreed to modify its community rules and regulations regarding requests for emotional support animals.

Court: Federal
Settlement: $40,000 + change in policies

Cusumano v Hartland Meadows

Phillip Cusumano, who uses a wheelchair and has a visual impairment, contacted the Fair Housing Center to report blocked sidewalks in his mobile home community. FHC staff wrote a letter to the property manager asking them to enforce their own community rule that prohibited residents from parking on or otherwise blocking the sidewalks, so that Mr. Cusumano could safely travel around the community.

Despite repeated requests by Mr. Cusumano, his wife, and the FHC, the housing provider failed to comply. As a result, the Cusumanos filed claims under the Federal Fair Housing Act and Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act, seeking to require the housing provider to enforce its own rule (non-monetary relief) and for compensatory and punitive damages (monetary relief).

The case was filed by FHC Cooperating Attorney Steve Tomkowiak on August 14, 2014, assigned to the Honorable Matthew F. Leitman, and settled on August 23, 2016.

Court: Federal
Settlement: Non-disclosed

Welch v Cerda

Sunshine Welch contacted the FHC to report discrimination based on disability at an Ypsilanti Township apartment. FHC testing supported her claim of discrimination based on mental/emotional disability. FHC Cooperating Attorney Steve Tomkowiak filed suit on behalf of Ms. Welch in U.S. Federal District Court on January 28, 2015. The case was assigned to the Honorable David M. Lawson and settled in December 2016.

Court: Federal
Settlement: $10,000

Cases Files

Daugherty v. Carpenter

Jennifer L. Daugherty contacted the Fair Housing Center in August 2016 to file a sexual harassment complaint against her Ypsilanti Township landlord. Ms. Daugherty stated that she had been receiving unwelcome messages at all times of the day and night, unannounced visits, and other unwanted attention from her landlord for over a year. According to the lawsuit, the defendant, Michael Carpenter, harassed and intimidated her by repeatedly asking her to go out with him, spend time with him, and even going as far as to leave a present under her pillow while she was away.

Ms. Daugherty’s responses varied from “no” to “stop this” to several months of ignoring his constant requests and sexual innuendos. According to the lawsuit, “Defendant twice initiated eviction proceedings against Daugherty in retaliation for Daugherty’s refusals to enter into a relationship with Defendant, and thus grant him sexual favors.” Ms. Daugherty wanted to continue to live in the apartment only because she needed to help care for her grandmother, who lived next door and was afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

The lawsuit states that Mr. Carpenter most recently gave Ms. Daugherty a notice to vacate on September 5, 2016, after watching her leave her apartment with another man and texting her that he would no longer rent to her. Worried about her safety, Ms. Daugherty filed a police report at that time. After the FHC advised her of her rights, Ms. Daugherty chose to take her case to litigation. FHC Cooperating Attorney Steve Tomkowiak filed the fair housing complaint based on the protected class of sex in Federal Court on July 14, 2017. The case has been assigned to the Honorable Linda Parker.

Fair Housing Breakfast

The Fair Housing Center of Southeast & Mid Michigan held its 4th Annual Fair Housing Breakfast on March 22nd in Ann Arbor. We welcomed Sara Pratt, Attorney with Relman, Dane, & Colfax, PLLC, as the keynote speaker. Ms. Pratt spoke to us about “The Role of Fair Housing in Strong Communities.” You can view a video of the talk and pictures on our website’s 2017 Breakfast page.

Justice For People With Disabilities

Reasonable Accommodations

Some recent reasonable accommodation and modification requests resolved by our office.

Termination of Lease Without Penalty

Three Reasonable Accommodations
Monroe and Washtenaw Counties

In the first case, a woman with an emotional disability had an experience that left her feeling unsafe in her apartment. FHC staff asked that she be let out of her lease without penalty as a reasonable accommodation of her disability. The request was granted.

In the second case, a woman who uses a wheelchair needed to move to a more accessible apartment building. We asked the landlord to let her out of her lease without a $500 penalty. The property owner agreed. The FHC is investigating the possibility that the owner illegally withheld her security deposit to recover their original fees.

The third case concerned a woman with a visual impairment. She had moved into a multi-family apartment complex and quickly realized that it lacked sidewalks leading to the bus stop, forcing her to walk her children to the stop in the busy road. She asked for her family to be let out of their lease so they could find safer alternative housing. The property management wanted nearly $3,000 to end the lease early. A letter from FHC staff resulted in ending the lease without any fees.

Emotional Support Animal Allowed

Two Reasonable Accommodations
Washtenaw County

The first case involved a woman with a mental/ emotional disability who moved into an apartment complex and later adopted a dog, as recommended by her doctor to alleviate the symptoms of her disability. When the manager became aware of the dog they told her that dogs were not allowed. FHC staff wrote a letter to the owner alerting him of fair housing law requirements to accommodate a person with a disability, and our complainant was able to keep her emotional support animal.

In the second case, a young woman with a disability had an assistance dog to help manage the symptoms of her disability. The complainant’s family sent an accommodation request and a doctor’s letter to the property owner in an effort to classify the dog as an emotional support animal. The property owner refused saying the dog wasn’t certified and, in addition, required a letter from a specialist and not a general practice doctor. A letter from FHC staff convinced the owner that his demands were unlawful, and the young woman was able to keep her emotional support animal.

FHC Stops Evictions

Three Reasonable Accommodations
Ingham and Washtenaw Counties

In the first case, a man with a disability lived with his mother. The nature of his disability would make it detrimental to his health if he were forced to move from one apartment to another. FHC staff negotiated to have him and his mother stay in their unit instead of being moved to another unit as the landlord preferred.

In the second case, a woman had a cat as an emotional support animal. She was then sent an eviction notice citing the animal as the reason. FHC staff sent a letter to the owner, including a letter from the woman’s doctor, asking for the emotional support animal to be allowed as a reasonable accommodation and for the eviction be dropped. The owner then cashed the tenant’s subsequent rent checks and has made no mention of eviction.

The third case concerned a young man with a disability who was evicted from his adult foster care home after they discovered he had a criminal record. There was no evidence to suggest that he had reoffended. At the time of the crime (nearly a decade ago) he was not receiving the medical and psychological treatment he needed. He is now getting that treatment. Research, advocacy, and a letter to the owner and licensing agency resulted in him moving back into the foster care home.

Policy Changes

Two Reasonable Accommodations
Jackson and Monroe Counties

Our first case involved a woman with a disability who received her Social Security Disability on the 3rd of the month. She faced a $75 fine if her rent was not paid on the 1st of the month. A letter from FHC staff asked that her rent due date be changed to the 4th of the month as an accommodation of her disability. The property agreed to change the date.

The second case concerned a man with a mobility impairment who was living on the 4th floor in an apartment building. When the owners decided to replace the only elevator in the complex he asked to be moved to a first floor unit to avoid being effectively trapped on the 4th floor during the long construction project. Initially the owners denied his request. FHC staff wrote a letter asking for the move to be done quickly and at the owner’s expense. The complainant was then moved as requested.

Parking Issues Resolved

Two Reasonable Accommodations
Washtenaw County

The first case involved an 83-year-old disabled veteran who was told he could no longer keep his automobile in his covered carport near the entrance of his building. Our complainant paid a monthly fee for the carport and used his car occasionally. The staff at the apartment complex for seniors claimed he didn’t use his car and threatened to have it towed. Fearing the cost of getting his car towed, he moved the car off the premises.

In a letter to the property, FHC staff demanded to know how much driving was required for each tenant to keep a car at the property and asked that our complainant’s parking space not be rented to another tenant. Upon further investigation it became clear that no written rules exist covering car usage. In the end, our complainant’s carport rental agreement was reinstated.

In the second case, a woman with a physical disability needed a parking space near the entrance of her apartment. It took two letters from FHC staff to get her the spot she requested.

Fair Housing Center News

Fair Policy, Fair Chance

Earlier this year the United Way of Washtenaw County awarded the FHC a grant for our “Fair Policy, Fair Chance” Project.

The project revolves around the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s new guidance which bans both private and public housing providers from using strict “no felony” rules for tenant selection. The grant has allowed us to hold various workshops and webinars, counsel individuals, create materials, and send out mailings to educate landlords, people with prior felony convictions, and service providers working with people with felonies about the change in HUD’s rule, as well as to share best practices for tenant selection with landlords. The ultimate goals for Fair Policy, Fair Chance are to ensure that landlords are following the new guidance and that people at risk of homelessness understand their rights.

Experts now estimate that up to 65 million people are living with a criminal conviction in the United States, a high percentage of whom are African American and Latino/a. Housing policies that ban all people with criminal records impact a disproportionate number of people of color because they are overrepresented in the criminal justice system.

For further information, please visit www.fhcmichigan.org/background

FHC Receives MLK Service Award

FHC Staff and Board of Directors were honored to receive the “Servant Leadership in Building a Beloved and Just Community (in the way of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) Award by the Church of the Good Shepherd in Ann Arbor. The congregation has a 28-year tradition of recognizing people and organizations who work toward intersectional justice. We are humbled to join the ranks of the esteemed previous recipients.


FHC Associate Director Kristen Cuhran married Christopher (Cre) Fuller on January 28th in Negril, Jamaica. We wish them a long, happy life together.

The WIMBY Pledge

Welcome In My BackYard

In 1994, in response to hate crimes in Ann Arbor, our office worked with community members to start the WIMBY campaign (Welcome in My BackYard). We relaunched the campaign in 2017, during a time of increased intolerance, to help make visible the large number of people who believe in diversity and inclusion.

If you support the tenets of this pledge (below), please add your signature today and download a poster at www.fhcWIMBY.org. Show your support on social media using #fhcWIMBY

I affirm that I welcome people of all walks of life in my neighborhood and community, and value human diversity in all its forms.

I cherish my right to live according to my own values and beliefs, and respect the rights of others to do the same.

I am personally opposed to and will try to find ways to speak out against:

  • Housing discrimination and other forms of discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex (including sexual harassment), disability, familial status, marital status, age, source of income, student status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression;
  • Verbal and physical harassment and abuse of all kinds, especially against children;
  • Racist and anti-Semitic acts;
  • The “not in my backyard” attitude toward group homes, foster-care homes, shelters, and public, cooperative, and subsidized housing;
  • Ethnic intimidation;
  • Anti-immigration and anti-immigrant actions and prejudice;
  • Anti-gay, lesbian, and bisexual harassment;
  • Anti-transgender and gender expression harassment.

I recognize that I may also hold such prejudices and stereotypes of various kinds developed during my life. Over the next year, I will try to better understand and reverse such attitudes in order to ensure that I do not act upon them.

I also intend to exercise my rights of free speech and political expression by keeping the WIMBY sign in one of my windows for the next year, in order to increase consciousness in my neighborhood and community about the principles of this pledge

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