Compensatory and punitive damages are an effective and highly publicized means of enforcing federal housing laws.Victims of housing discrimination can seek compensatory, as well as punitive damages.
Compensatory damages consist of special and general damages.Special damages include actual out-of-pocket expenses or losses, including actual expenses such as moving and storage expenses and the losses that directly result from discriminatory practice such as having to move to more expensive alternate housing or inferior alternate housing.
Compensatory damages also include general damages for humiliation, embarrassment or emotional distress.
Courts award punitive damages if there is a reckless disregard for another’s rights.The following factors are considered in determining the amount of damages:
- The egregiousness of the conduct.
- The frequency of discrimination, i.e. whether it was a single, isolated incident or part of a continuing pattern of practice.
- The relative wealth of the owner.
- Whether the property owner participated in conciliation in an effort to settle the complaint.
- An amount sufficient to deter the property owner from continued violations of the civil rights laws.
Punitive damages were awarded against a landlord who evicted tenants for entertaining black guests because:
- The tenants had warned the landlord that his eviction attempt violated the Fair Housing Act.
- The landlord expressed animus by using racial epitaphs.
- The landlord had a history of racial discrimination.
If you are a Landlord with property in the Buffalo, New York area and need assistance with legal issues specific to property owners, see my Landlord legal page for more information