In one of the clearest signals yet that HUD considers the Fair Housing provision against discrimination based on sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity, the Department has filed a charge of Discrimination against an RV resort in central Florida for its treatment of a transgendered individual. This makes Florida the first state to have a transgendered fair housing case.
The charges are the first since the U.S. Supreme Court expanded civil rights protections for transgendered Americans with a 2020 ruling in an employment case.
While Congress has not formally amended the Fair Housing Act to include protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity, HUD is the federal agency charged with enforcing federal fair housing law, and as such, has discretion in interpreting how court decisions affect the implementation of fair housing law.
Nathan Dykgraaf, the owner and manager of 21 Palms RV Resort Park in Davenport, FL has been named as a defendant in the case. In the complaint, HUD alleges that Dykgraaf took issue when an unnamed resident began to dress and present themselves as a transgendered woman. According to the complaint, in January 2021, Dykgraaf gave the resident a handwritten letter telling her to stop presenting herself as a woman.
According to HUD, the letter said, “I have been informed of your actions to have your sex changed to a female, I am told you have started taking the necessary medication and that after a period of time, your change will be completed. To avoid problems you must: 1. Act as a man. 2. Talk as a man. 3. Dress as a man. 4. Avoid tight clothing that is revealing sexual organs. If you follow the above steps trouble will be avoided. Sincerely, Nathan D.”
After getting the letter, the resident stopped fully expressing her gender identity and avoided neighbors, RV park staff, and curtailed her use of the park’s amenities.
The resident and her family, which included a minor child, moved from the property on August 26, 2021, and filed the complaint with HUD, seeking “actual damages including, but not limited to emotional distress, lost housing opportunity, and out-of-pocket expenses.”
HUD is stating that the actions of the owner violate the Fair Housing Act by setting illegal conditions or restrictions in order to have housing.
The next step in the process will be a hearing by a U.S. Administrative Law Judge or in a federal district court. Damages may be awarded by the ALJ after the hearing, or they may order injunctive relief and payment of attorney’s fees, in addition to fines.
Federal courts may also impose punitive damages.
This charge makes it clear that HUD now considers discrimination based on sex in housing to include sexual orientation and gender identity.