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Finch v. Housing Authority of Cook County

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

August 9, 2019



          John Robert Blakey United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Adana Finch, individually and as parent and next friend of Ramon Finch, Jr. and Coya Shorter, sues the Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC), alleging disability discrimination in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Count I) and Section 3604(f) of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) (Count II). [54]. In a July 19, 2018 order, this Court granted Defendants'[1] motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint, [38], without prejudice. [45]. Plaintiffs have since filed a Second Amended Complaint (SAC), [54], and Defendant has again moved to dismiss all claims, this time with prejudice. [60]. For the reasons explained below, this Court grants in part, and denies in part, Defendant's motion.

         I. The Complaint's Allegations

         This Court incorporates by reference, and presumes familiarity with, its prior opinion addressing Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs First Amended Complaint, [46], and thus only briefly revisits the alleged facts from which Plaintiffs claims arise.

         Adana and her two children, Ramon[2] and Shorter, previously resided in a three-bedroom apartment through a Section 8 voucher from Defendant. [54] ¶¶ 3-4. On May 18, 2017, Plaintiffs' landlord informed Plaintiffs that she would not renew their lease after it ended on August 31, 2017 because Defendant refused to approve an increase in the contract rent amount. [1] at 9.[3] Defendant advised Plaintiffs' landlord that reduced federal funding levels, caused by uncertainty in Congress, forced it to adopt cost saving measures. Id. at 10-11. These cost saving measures included: (1) generally denying rent voucher increases; and (2) requiring that two family members share a bedroom, regardless of the members' age, sex, or relationship. Id.

         Plaintiffs allege that on or about May 19, 2017, they asked Defendant to approve a three-bedroom apartment as a reasonable accommodation based upon their disabilities. [54] ¶ 8. Adana does not claim any disability, but Ramon has autism spectrum disorder, asthma, and learning disabilities. Id. ¶¶ 11, 35. Shorter suffers from bipolar II disorder as well as learning disabilities, a panic disorder, and claustrophobia. Id. ¶¶ 11, 37. Plaintiffs allege that Ramon and Shorter require separate rooms because of these disabilities. Id.

         Defendant denied Plaintiffs' reasonable accommodation request in June 2017. Id. ¶ 9; [1] at 12-13. Due to this denial, Plaintiffs' landlord refused to renew their lease and asked them to leave. [54] ¶ 10. According to Plaintiff, Defendant made arrangements for other Section 8 families residing in the building to remain in three-bedroom apartments without paying any additional cost. Id. ¶ 13.

         When Plaintiffs began looking for new apartments, Adana again notified Defendant that she needed an accommodation based upon her children's disabilities-specifically, a three-bedroom apartment. Id. ¶¶ 14-15. Defendant refused this accommodation and instead authorized payment only for a two-bedroom apartment. Id. ¶ 16. As a result, Plaintiffs rented a three-bedroom apartment and paid for the additional cost of the third bedroom themselves “for a number of months, ” which caused a serious hardship due to the family's low-income. Id. ¶¶ 17-18. Due to this additional cost, Plaintiffs eventually rented an apartment that did not suit their family's needs in order to afford the rent. Id. According to Plaintiffs, only after incurring all the moving costs and many months of rental payments did Defendants acknowledge that Plaintiffs' disabilities necessitated a third bedroom and approve this additional cost. Id. ¶ 20. Plaintiffs do not specify when Defendant made this approval decision. See generally id. Defendant has never repaid Plaintiffs' lost rent or moving costs. Id.

         II. Legal Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must provide a “short and plain statement of the claim” showing that the pleader merits relief, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), so the defendant has “fair notice” of the claim “and the grounds upon which it rests, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A complaint must also contain “sufficient factual matter” to state a facially plausible claim to relief-one that “allows the court to draw the reasonable inference” that the defendant committed the alleged misconduct. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). This plausibility standard “asks for more than a sheer possibility” that a defendant acted unlawfully. Williamson v. Curran, 714 F.3d 432, 436 (7th Cir. 2013).

         In evaluating a complaint on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, this Court accepts all well-pled allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs' favor. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. This Court does not, however, accept legal conclusions as true. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). On a motion to dismiss, this Court may consider the complaint itself, documents attached to the complaint, documents central to the complaint and to which the complaint refers, and information properly subject to judicial notice. Williamson, 714 F.3d at 436.

         III. Analysis

         Counts I and II each contain one failure to accommodate claim and two disparate treatment claims against Defendant. Specifically, Counts I and II allege that Defendant violated the Rehabilitation Act and FHA by: (1) refusing to make reasonable accommodations when it did not approve a higher rental voucher payment or approve a different three-bedroom apartment when Plaintiffs were forced to move; (2) forcing Plaintiffs to move while allowing similarly situated families to remain in their three-bedroom apartments; and (3) approving rent voucher increases for other similarly situated renters. [54] ¶¶ 40, 48, 49. This Court analyzes each claim in turn.

         A. The Rehabilitation Act ...

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