United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
BARCLAY SURRICK, J.
before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Judgment on
the Pleadings. (ECF No. 22.) For the following reasons, the
Motion will be denied.
Amended Complaint alleges that Defendants unlawfully
discriminated against tenants with disabilities and
discouraged persons with disabilities from applying to live
in Defendants' apartments. (Am. Compl. ¶ 9, ECF No.
2.) Plaintiff Fair Housing Rights Center in Southeastern
Pennsylvania (“FHRC”) is a non-profit agency that
works to ensure that persons with disabilities are provided
equal access to housing opportunities. (Id. ¶
2012, Plaintiff received a complaint from a disabled person
(“the complainant”) who lived at Brookside Manor.
This is a property owned by KBF and operated by Morgan.
(Id. ¶ 25.) The complainant was unable to work
because of his disability, and therefore relied on Social
Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in order to pay his
rent. (Id.) Defendants required the complainant to
pay rent on the first day of every month; however, the
complainant did not receive his social security check until
after the rent was due. (Id.) The complainant
requested for KBF and Morgan to change his rental due date so
that it was after he received his SSDI check. (Id.)
Plaintiff alleges that KBF and Morgan denied his request, and
instead charged him late fees and refused to renew the
complainant's lease. (Id.)
receiving this complaint, Plaintiff launched an investigation
into the potential disability discrimination occurring at
Defendants' other properties. (Id. ¶ 26.)
Plaintiff investigated three buildings in the Philadelphia
area: Brookside Manor Apartments and Townhomes, Kingswood
Apartments, and Montgomery Woods Townhomes. (Id.
¶ 27.) As part of its investigation, Plaintiff engaged
three different “testers” to contact the
respective buildings and to inquire about Defendants'
policies for adjusting monthly rental due dates for SSDI
recipients. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that SSDI
recipients who began receiving benefits after 1997 receive
their benefits check on either the second, third, or fourth
Wednesday of the month. (Id. ¶ 4.)
29, 2012, tester one (“T1”) called Brookside
Manor Apartments and Townhomes posing as a person inquiring
about housing opportunities for her sister. (Id.
¶ 28.) T1 told one of the Brookside employees that her
sister had a disability and received SSDI checks on the 15th
of each month. (Id. ¶ 29.) T1 asked the
employee if her sister could be permitted to pay the rent
when she receives her SSDI check, on the 15th of each month.
(Id.) Plaintiff alleges that the employee told TI
that company policy is that the rent is always due on the
first of the month and “that there were no exceptions
to this rule.” (Id. ¶ 30.) The employee
also said that if a tenant paid rent on the 15th of the
month, Morgan and KBF would have already begun court
proceedings against the tenant. (Id. ¶ 31.)
According to the employee, a tenant would therefore have to
pay late fees and court fees. (Id.)
17, 2012, tester two (“T2”) called Kingswood
Apartments. (Id. ¶ 32.) Like TI, T2 stated that
she was calling on behalf of her sister, who received SSDI
payments on the 15th of each month because of her disability.
(Id. ¶ 33.) T2 told the employee that the SSDI
checks were her sister's sole source of income.
(Id.) T2 then asked if Kingswood Apartments could be
flexible with the rental due date for her disabled sister.
(Id. ¶ 34.) The employee told T2 to check with
the local Kingswood offices. (Id.) T2 then called
the local Kingswood office and was told that the rent is due
on the first day of each month and that there was a five-day
grace period. (Id. ¶ 36.) After asking if any
accommodation could be made for her sister, another Kingswood
employee told T2 that the renter would be required to pay
rent one month in advance in order to avoid late fees.
(Id. ¶ 38.)
19, 2013, tester three (“T3”) made an appointment
to view one of the Montgomery Woods Townhomes. (Id.
¶ 39.) Like T1 and T2, T3 told the employee that her
sister was disabled and received SSDI benefits on the 15th of
each month. T3 asked if the rental due date could be the 15th
of the month instead of the 1st of the month. (Id.
¶ 43.) The employee told T3 that she did not think it
was possible to adjust the rental due date, but told T3 that
she would check with her boss. (Id. ¶ 44.) On
June 25, T3 called the employee to follow-up, and was told
that Montgomery would not adjust the due date. (Id.
August 21, 2013, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the United
States Department of Housing and Urban Development
(“HUD”) against Defendants for violations of the
Fair Housing Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.
(Id. ¶ 53.) HUD accepted the complaint and
referred it to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission
(“PHRC”). (Id. ¶¶ 53-54.) On
September 29, 2015, the PHRC found that probable cause
existed that Morgan engaged in unlawful discrimination.
(Id. ¶ 54.) The PHRC has not resolved
Plaintiff's complaint. (Id.)
August 29, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court.
(ECF No. 1.) On September 1, 2016, Plaintiff filed an Amended
Complaint. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint alleges that
Defendants have engaged in discriminatory actions and refused
to make reasonable housing accommodations to persons with
disabilities. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 65, 69.) Plaintiff
alleges that Defendants' acts deny people with
disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a
dwelling. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that
Defendants' discriminatory actions are violations of the
Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3604(f) (“FHA”)
(Count I) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa.
Stat. Ann. § 955(h)(3.2) (“PHRA”) (Count
II). (Id. ¶¶ 66, 69.) Defendant Morgan
filed an Answer to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint on
October 28, 2016. (ECF No. 8.) On October 31, 2016, all
Defendants filed an Amended Answer with affirmative defenses.
(ECF No. 9.) On December 29, 2016, Defendants filed the
instant Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (Defs.'
Mot., ECF No. 22; Defs.' Br., ECF No. 23.) On January 17,
2017, Plaintiff filed a Response to Defendants' Motion.
(Pl.'s Resp., ECF No. 27.) Defendants' request for
oral argument on the Motion was granted and argument was held
on March 30, 2017. (ECF No. 34.)
12(c) permits a party to move for judgment on the pleadings
“[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not
to delay trial.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Courts evaluate a
Rule 12(c) motion under the same standard as a motion to
dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Turbe v. Gov't of
the V.I., 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991). A motion for
judgment on the pleadings will be granted “only if,
viewing all the facts in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party, no material issue of fact remains and the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Knepper v. Rite Aid Corp., 675 F.3d 249,
257 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Rosenau v. Unifund Corp.,
539 F.3d 218, 221 (3d Cir. 2008)); see also Inst. for
Scientific Info., Inc. v. Gordon & Breach, Sci.
Publishers, Inc., 931 F.2d 1002, 1005 (3d Cir. 1991)
(“[A Rule 12(c) motion] only has utility when all the
material allegations of fact are admitted in the pleadings
and only questions of law remain.” (citations and
internal quotation marks omitted)).
evaluating a Rule 12(c) motion, the Court must “accept
the complaint's well-pleaded allegations as true, and
construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party, but will not accept unsupported conclusory
statements.” DiCarlo v. St. Mary Hosp., 530
F.3d 255, 262-63 (3d Cir. 2008). The pleadings must contain
sufficient factual allegations so as to state a facially
plausible claim for relief. See, e.g., Gelman v.
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 583 F.3d 187, 190 (3d
Cir. 2009). A claim possesses such plausibility “when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (quoting
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)).
alleges that Defendants discriminated against disabled people
by making housing unavailable to SSDI recipients, and by
refusing to make reasonable accommodations necessary to
afford disabled people an equal opportunity to use and enjoy
Otherwise Make Unavailable
argues that Defendants' inflexible policy, which requires
all tenants to pay rent on the first day of the month, has
the effect of making housing unavailable to people with