Landlady Refuses to Rent to WI Single Mom

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on September 12, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

As one of the groups most likely to face housing discrimination, single mothers often have a difficult time renting apartments and homes in areas safe enough for their families.

In one such incident, Darlene Dovenberg, of Dovenberg Investments in West Salem, Wisconsin, refused to rent to a single mother, claiming that the property was unsafe without a man around "to shovel the snow."

She's now the subject of an administrative complaint brought by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Charged with investigating and enforcing fair housing laws, HUD spoke to Dovenberg, who told the agency that she never rents to single mothers, reports the La Crosse Tribune.

This particular house is secluded and located in an area with severe winters--a situation she deemed unsafe for a single woman with children.

When it comes to housing discrimination, single mothers, like the one in this story, are protected from bias based on their sex and familial status.

The Fair Housing Act generally prohibits denying housing on the basis of:

  • familial make-up (single mothers, extended families, unrelated occupants)
  • presence of children, or desire to have children
  • gender stereotypes, such as a woman's inability to maintain the property

Darlene Dovenberg appears to have violated all three of these prohibitions.

She refused to rent to a single mother because the family did not include an adult male; because a child existed; and because she believed that the woman's sex prevented her from shoveling snow.

The outcome? Dovenberg could now be facing a fine of up to $16,000.

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