Richmond landlord loses federal discrimination lawsuit

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — House Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia has settled a federal housing discrimination lawsuit against a Richmond landlord accused of discriminating against families and people with disabilities. 

In a 2020 complaint filed by HOME, Teresa Vetter is accused of demonstrating discriminatory intent in the terms and conditions of her rental properties. 

As part of the settlement, Vetter cannot be a landlord for the next five years, must sell her rental properties and must pay $25,000 to cover the cost of HOME’s investigation.

In addition, Vetter must take mandatory fair housing training from the Virginia Fair Housing Office of the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation. 

“This case demonstrates that landlords and housing professionals cannot discriminate based on the presence of children in the household,” said Heather Crislip, president and CEO of HOME. “You can lose your license, you can lose your properties, and you can be financially responsible for the cost. There must be equal access to housing whether you have kids, a disability, or any other protected status under fair housing laws.”

HOME said they became aware of Vetter’s discrimination after they received a complaint from a family who wanted to rent from her. In 2018, the organization launched an investigation and discovered evidence that Vetter actively discriminated against families and people with disabilities.

Back in May, 8News obtained alleged recordings of Vetter where she’s heard saying, “children make terrible tenants.”

“Children make terrible tenants. The law doesn’t allow me to discriminate against people on account of children, but I can tell you I would rather have a Great Dane for a tenant than a three-year-old,” Vetter said in the recording.

HOME said Vetter refused to accept Social Security disability income from a potential renter but accepted the same amount from someone who was employed.

The organization claims Vetter said this to a potential renter:

I get calls all the time from people who get a disability check. Not a darn thing wrong with them. Not nothing. Nothing’s wrong with them, like, you know, I’ll ask ‘Are you in a wheelchair? Can you do stairs?’ ‘Oh, it’s not that kind of disability.’ ‘What is it?’ ‘I’m depressed.’ ‘Really, well so am I, now that I know what my tax dollars are paying for.

Teresa Vetter

Under the law, HOME said a disability is a physical or mental impairment that greatly limits a person’s enjoyment of life activities, including housing. 

“Our society must ensure every person with a disability, whether the disability is visible or not, has an equal chance at affordable and accessible housing of their choice, the law requires it,” Crislip said.

You can read the full federal complaint and listen to the audio recordings of Vetter here