The Indiana Civil Rights Commission’s Deputy Director Akia Haynes recently announced that Zender Family Limited Partnership, which operates 16 apartment communities in downtown Indianapolis, was charged with housing discrimination for failing to engage in the interactive process with a disabled tenant after she requested to be released early from her lease agreement because of a medical condition.
The charge stems from an April 4 complaint filed with the commission, which found that the charging party spoke with her property manager in April 2012 and requested to be released from her lease agreement early due to recent events that aggravated her medical condition. However, the property manager (acting as an agent for Zender) advised the charging party they would have to pay a $250 termination fee plus two months’ rent in order to be released from the rental agreement.
“While the property manager is not obligated to grant the tenant’s specific accommodation request, they are responsible for discussing alternatives,” Haynes said in a press release. “The property manager’s refusal to engage in any dialogue with the tenant regarding her request constitutes a violation of Civil Rights Laws.”
The charging party ultimately paid the rent through May, the termination fee, and two months’ rent in order to vacate the unit in May 2012. At no time did the property manager engage in the interactive process with the tenant, ultimately hindering her ability to maintain her independence and reducing her ability to participate in major life activities.
Therefore, following the state’s preliminary investigation, the deputy director of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission has issued a Notice of Finding stating that there is reasonable cause to believe an unlawful discriminatory practice occurred in this instance.
A finding of reasonable cause does not resolve a civil rights complaint. Rather, it means the state has concluded its preliminary investigation and determined there is sufficient evidence to support reasonable suspicion that the Indiana Civil Rights Law has been violated. The Indiana Civil Rights Law provides remedies, including compensatory damages and injunctive relief, such as changes in the employer’s policies and training.
The Indiana Civil Rights Commission enforces the Indiana Civil Rights laws and provides education and services to the public in an effort to ensure equal opportunity for all Hoosiers and visitors to the State of Indiana. For more information, call Brad Meadows, ICRC communications manager, at 232-2651.