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Storr v. Marik

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

December 10, 2013

DEREK STORR, KAREN STORR, and E.C.S., Plaintiff's Minor Child by her father and next friend DEREK STORR, Plaintiffs,
v.
THOMAS J. MARIK, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT W. GETTLEMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Derek Storr, Karen Storr, and their minor child have filed a pro se complaint against defendant Thomas Marik, alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et. seq. Defendant has filed a pro se motion for summary judgment, which plaintiffs oppose. For the reasons described below, defendant's motion is granted.

BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiffs and defendant initially signed a written Property Rental Agreement ("lease") on December 21, 2010, for the home located at 229 Woodstock Ave., Clarendon Hills, Illinois. The initial term of the lease ran from January 21, 2011, to April 30, 2013, with an agreed rent of $1, 550.00 per month. The lease further provided that after the expiration of the initial term, the lease would become month-to-month. During the initial term of the lease, plaintiffs[2] allege that they requested that defendant make multiple repairs and accommodations to the property, and defendant failed to do so. Among these requests were installation of a bathroom grab bar, installation of an exterior light and hand rail, and mold removal. Defendant maintains that he has been responsive to plaintiffs' request for repairs.

In April 2012, plaintiffs learned through a levy notice that the IRS had filed a tax levy on defendant. Pursuant to the notice, plaintiffs paid their rental payment directly to the IRS, despite defendant's alleged instruction to continue paying him the rent directly.

In October 2012, plaintiffs advised defendant that they would like to extend the lease on the property beyond April 30, 2013. Defendant responded that the terms of the new lease would include a 40% increase in the rental payment. In February 2013, plaintiffs suggested counteroffer rental payments, each of which defendant refused. In that same month, plaintiffs allege that they renewed their requests for repairs to the property, and defendant visited the property to assess the potential repairs. Plaintiffs allege that defendant did not make any of the requested repairs, and further allege that defendant told them that they should look elsewhere for a residence because he had not advertised the property as handicap accessible. Defendant counters that plaintiffs were the first to suggest they were not suited to the property.

In March 2013, defendant advised plaintiffs that he would not renew the lease under the current terms and reaffirmed his offer of a 40% rental payment increase. The proposed new lease also contained additional terms which plaintiffs claim were burdensome. Plaintiffs refused to sign the new lease, and on April 30, 2013, attempted to tender a rental payment of $1, 550.00 for the month of May. Defendant filed an action for forcible entry and detainer in the state court. Plaintiffs vacated the premises on June 30, 2013.

Plaintiffs allege that defendant violated the Fair Housing Act by: (1) telling the plaintiffs to look elsewhere for housing; (2) failing to make repairs and reasonable accommodations to the property; (3) failing to honor the month-to-month provision of the lease; (4) demanding an exorbitant rental payment increase; (5) failing to make reasonable accommodations in the negotiation of the new lease; (6) retaliating against plaintiffs for providing defendant's contact information to the IRS, paying rent directly to the IRS, and contacting the Village when defendant failed to make repairs to the property. Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgement on all of plaintiffs' claims.

DISCUSSION[3]

A movant is entitled to summary judgment under Rule 56 when the moving papers and affidavits show there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Unterreiner v. Volkswagen of Am., Inc. , 8 F.3d 1206, 1209 (7th Cir. 1993). A genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Stewart v. McGinnis , 5 F.3d 1031, 1033 (7th Cir. 1993). Once a moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Becker v. Tenenbaum-Hill Assocs., Inc. , 914 F.2d 107, 110 (7th Cir. 1990). The court considers the record as a whole and draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. See Fisher v. Transco Services-Milwaukee Inc. , 979 F.2d 1239, 1242 (7th Cir. 1992).[4]

Plaintiffs allege that defendant's actions violated the Fair Housing Act, which makes it unlawful "[t]o discriminate in the sale or rental, or to otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any buyer or renter because of a handicap of [] that buyer or renter." 42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(1)[5]. Under subsection (f)(3)(A) of the same section, discrimination includes "a refusal to permit, at the expense of the handicapped person, reasonable modifications of existing premises occupied or to be occupied by such person if such modifications may be necessary to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises except that, in the case of a rental, the landlord may where it is reasonable to do so condition permission for a modification on the renter agreeing to restore the interior of the premises to the condition that existed before the modification, reasonable wear and tear excepted." Discrimination also includes "a refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling." 42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(3)(B).

Plaintiffs also allege a violation of Section 3617 of the Act, which makes it unlawful to "coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of his having exercised or enjoyed, or on account of his having aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected" by Section 3604.

Defendant has moved for summary judgment on all of plaintiffs' claims. The pro se complaint does not separate plaintiffs' claims into enumerated counts, but in their response to the motion for summary judgment, plaintiffs delineate four counts: denial of reasonable accommodation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(B) (Count One); discriminatory statements in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(c) (Count Two); discrimination on the basis of ...


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