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United States v. Trumbull Metropolitan Housing Authority

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

October 30, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
TRUMBULL METROPOLITAN HOUSING AUTHORITY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER [RESOLVING ECF NO. 41]

          BENITA Y. PEARSON, United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Defendants Trumbull Metropolitan Housing Authority (“TMHA”), Russell Osman, and Valerie Simeon's partial Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 41) pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendants seek to dismiss: (1) Counts Six and Seven of Plaintiffs' Intervening Complaint, which allege that their due process rights were violated; (2) Count Ten, which alleges that Defendants discriminated against Plaintiffs on the basis of race with respect to the rental of a dwelling; and (3) Count Eleven, which alleges that Defendants retaliated against Plaintiffs in denying them housing because Plaintiffs filed a Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) discrimination claim against Defendants. Id. Plaintiffs oppose the motion. ECF No. 45. Defendants replied. ECF No. 46. For the reasons below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted.

         I. Background

         The United States brought a single cause of action on behalf of Plaintiffs alleging that Defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 3604 (“the Fair Housing Act” or “FHA”) by engaging in unlawful discrimination on the basis of disability in the rental of housing. ECF No. 1. The Court granted the Motion to Intervene (ECF No. 3) filed by Plaintiffs JG, SP, and their two minor children AP and MH. ECF No. 14. As a result, Plaintiffs filed an Intervening Complaint, alleging fifteen claims against Defendants.[1] ECF No. 16.

         Plaintiffs JG, SP, and their two minor children are residents of Trumbull County, Ohio who sought subsidized housing via services offered by Defendants. ECF No. 16 at PageID#: 250-51. Plaintiffs have various illnesses that make them eligible for housing accommodations-JG has been diagnosed with end-stage renal disease and Type-1 Diabetes, and one of their children has a learning disability. Id. at PageID#: 254.

         Defendant TMHA is a public housing authority of the State of Ohio authorized to administer low-income housing programs and to administer federal Section 8 housing programs in Trumbull County. Id. at PageID#: 251. Defendant Osman works for TMHA as its Assistant Director of TMHA, and Defendant Simeon is employed as its Voucher Program Coordinator. Id.

         A. 2014

         The Intervening Complaint alleges that, in February 2014, Plaintiffs applied for, and were issued, a voucher for a two-bedroom house. ECF No. 16 at PageID#: 252;254. Plaintiffs later requested and were granted a voucher that would permit them to rent a house with up to four bedrooms. Id. at PageID#: 255. Using this voucher, Plaintiffs selected a three-bedroom house. Id. at PageID#: 256. Defendants conducted an inspection of the three-bedroom house to ensure that it complied with HUD's health and safety requirements. Id. Pursuant to Defendant TMHA's written policy, Chapter 10(B), “once the unit has had an initial inspection the family must take this unit unless the landlord fails to correct the items noted on the inspection list.” Id.

         On or about September 29, 2014, Plaintiffs sent Defendants a notification and request letter concerning the suitability of the three-bedroom house for Plaintiff JG's disability-related needs. Id. at PageID#: 258. In the letter, Plaintiffs notified Defendants that the three-bedroom house was not suitable for Plaintiff JG, because he required a separate room for his at-home dialysis treatment. Id. Additionally, Plaintiffs requested Defendants issue them new paperwork permitting the rental of a four-bedroom home that would be more suitable for Plaintiff JG's disability-related needs. Id. Defendants denied Plaintiffs' request on grounds that Plaintiffs had already selected the three-bedroom house, the house had been inspected, and Defendants' policy required Plaintiffs to lease the house because the inspection had been completed and approved. Id. at PageID#: 259. Plaintiffs refused to sign the lease for the three-bedroom house. Id. at PageID#: 260. As a result, on October 3, 2014, Defendants terminated Plaintiffs' voucher because Plaintiffs “failed to sign [the] document and move into [a] unit that had passed the inspection.” Id. at PageID#: 261.

         On December 21, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a housing discrimination complaint with HUD, claiming that Defendants denied Plaintiffs a reasonable accommodation of a four-bedroom house voucher. Id. at PageID#: 263-64.

         B. 2015

         On February 19, 2015, Plaintiffs reapplied to participate in the housing voucher program. ECF No. 16 at PageID #: 263. Defendants approved Plaintiffs' application, placed them on a waiting list; and, soon after, issued Plaintiffs a voucher for a two-bedroom house. Id. at PageID#: 264. Plaintiffs requested a voucher increase for a three-bedroom house. Id. at PageID#: 272. In determining whether a three-bedroom house was necessary, Defendant Simeon contacted Plaintiff JG's dialysis clinic to inquire whether a separate bedroom was necessary. Id. at PageID#: 264-65. Plaintiffs allege that, in order to gain access to information relative to the 2015 application, Defendant Simeon sent several authorization forms-a Verification of Need Form (medical authorization) and a signature page from a HUD-9886 Form (financial authorization) previously signed by Plaintiff JG-to the dialysis clinic. Id. Defendants justify their actions by contending that Plaintiff JG had already executed a 2014 Verification of Need Form authorizing his dialysis clinic to provide his medical information to Defendants. ECF No. 41 at PageID#: 489. Furthermore, Defendants recount that they had already engaged in numerous rounds of communication with Plaintiff JG's dialysis clinic regarding Plaintiff JG's disability and housing accommodation needs prior to March 2015. Id.

         On April 20, 2015, Plaintiff JG's nephrologist sent Defendants a letter stating that Plaintiff JG is able to perform his home dialysis treatments safely if he “has a clean room in his house for that purpose.” ECF No. 41 at PageID#: 489. On June 15, 2015, as a result of these communications, Defendants approved and issued Plaintiffs a “new” voucher for a three-bedroom house. ECF No. 16 at PageID#: 272. On September 1, 2015, Plaintiffs elected to use their voucher to rent a three-bedroom house of their choosing, which Defendants inspected and approved. Id. at PageID#: 273.

         C. ...


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