Federal and state laws make it illegal to discriminate when it comes to housing. But there have been cases popping up across the country where veterans with disabilities claim they are facing housing discrimination.
Now, the leadership at the Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations Commission is trying to identify local veterans who think they’ve been denied housing because of their disabilities.
“The more we can target education and outreach, the more that individuals will realize what their rights are, realize that they’ve been discriminated against, and they, in turn, will normally seek our assistance,” said Anthony Wade, the human resource department director.
The Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations Commission held a listening session Wednesday in Fayetteville to hear complaints about veterans facing housing discrimination.
The experts say there’s a perception across the county that if you’re a veteran, you automatically suffer from PTSD.
“I just heard a story in there from a service provider who heard from a veteran that he was told, ‘Yeah, I can’t have people in here that may be mentally unstable,’” said Yamile Nazar, the human relations manager.
But the potential for mental illness isn’t the only possible discriminating factor.
Landlords can’t falsely state they just rented the last apartment, and they can’t refuse to rent or sell because a person is disabled.
Landlords also have to allow reasonable modification to property that the disabled person may be required to pay for, and disabled veterans cannot be denied housing or charged extra deposits because they have a service animal that assists them with their disability.
Nazar said if a person believes they have been recently discriminated against, they could come to her office.
“We conduct an intake. If we find out that there’s a potential violation of our law, then we would conduct an investigation,” she said.
The case would go before the Fair Housing Hearing Board or in front of a Superior Court Judge which could end with the landlord paying penalties and fines.
“The primary civil penalties for a violation of our current law is up to $11,000. That does not include punitive damages to the complainant,” Nazar said.