Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
The Vermont Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act, Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 9, §§ 4500-4507, prohibits discrimination in renting a dwelling or other real estate to any person because of the race, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, religious creed, color, national origin or handicap of a person, or because a person intends to occupy a dwelling with one or more minor children, or because a person is a recipient of public assistance under Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 9, § 4503(a)(1).
When the plaintiff couple purchased their mobile home in the owners' park in 1986, they were childless. When their son was born in 1989, the owners reminded them that under their lease, only two occupants were permitted per unit and began eviction proceedings. The Human Rights Commission commenced an action against the owners for violating the Vermont Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act (Act), Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 9, §§ 4500-4507, specifically, Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 9, § 4503(a)(1)-(3). The owners contended an occupancy limit was necessary due to limited water and septic capacity, but the trial court concluded the couple was evicted due to the presence of a minor child, and awarded damages, expenses, attorney fees, and civil penalties. The mobile home park owners appealed.
By evicting the plaintiff couple, did the mobile home park owners violate the Vermont Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act (Act), Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 9, §§ 4500-4507, specifically, Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 9, § 4503(a)(1)-(3), thereby warranting the award of damages in favor of the plaintiff couple?
On appeal, the court affirmed with one exception as to attorney fees. The court found that there was no clear error on the trial court's part in finding an intent to discriminate given evidence that the owners continued a discriminatory practice that had existed prior to the enactment of the Act in 1989 and in concluding that the occupancy limit was unreasonable. Further, no expert testimony was required to establish the wife's claim for emotional distress. The attorney fees, though not excess, required remand for deduction of time spent reconstructing time sheets.