N.D. Fair Hous. Council, Inc. v. Peterson

2001 ND 81, 625 N.W.2d 551



The legislature will not be held to have changed a law it did not have under consideration while enacting a later law, unless the terms of the subsequent act are so inconsistent with the provisions of the prior law that they cannot stand together. Statutes relating to the same subject matter shall be construed together and should be harmonized, if possible, to give meaningful effect to each.


Appellant unmarried couple tried to rent a home from appellees. Appellees refused because the unmarried couple were seeking to cohabit. Appellant Fair Housing Council and appellant couple sued appellees, alleging housing discrimination in violation of N.D. Cent. Code ch. 14-02.4, the North Dakota Human Rights Act (Act). The issue was whether refusing to rent to the couple violated the discriminatory housing practices provision of the Act, N.D. Cent. Code § 14-02.4-12. The trial court granted summary judgment to appellees. The appellants sought review of the decision. 


Did the trial court err in finding that appellees were not required to rent to the couple?




The court affirmed the trial court's judgment and determined that the cohabitation statute, N.D. Cent. Code § 12.1-20-10, and the discriminatory housing provision were harmonized by recognizing that the cohabitation statute regulated conduct, not status. Since it was unlawful to openly and notoriously live together as husband and wife without being married, it was not unlawful to deny housing to an unmarried couple seeking to openly and notoriously live together as husband and wife.

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