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Landlord refuses to rent to women, claims they need a man to shovel the snow

Portrait of a woman shoveling snow by D. Sharon Pruitt.

Landlord claims single mothers are the scourge of society

Wisconsin homeowner and property manager, Darlene Dovenberg has been charged by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for refusing to rent a home to a single mother on the grounds that the renter didn’t have a man “to shovel snow and stuff.” Subsequently, Dovenberg rented the unit to two male renters.

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status and national orientation with the National Association of Realtors amending their own Code of Ethics this year to include sexual orientation as a protected class.

The landlord was reportedly quite open about her routine refusal to rent any of the six rural properties she owns and manages to single mothers because of “brutal” winters, stating that single mothers not only can’t keep the snow properly shoveled, but single mothers can’t handle the isolation and Dovenberg didn’t want to be called all the time to come plow women out or to “fix things.” Investigators note that during their probe, Dovenberg complained several times that single mothers are a part of the nation’s current economic problems, whereas in the 60s and 70s, single mothers were not problematic.

Blatantly admits discrimination

“If she thinks I discriminated against her, I absolutely did,” Dovenberg said, according to HUD documents.

According to HUD, the charges will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages to aggrieved persons for the damages caused them by the discrimination and the judge may also order injunctive relief, payment of attorneys fees, and potential fines “in order to vindicate the public interest.” If the case goes to federal court, punitive damages may be awarded.

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“Fairness dictates, and the Fair Housing Act requires, that housing decisions not be based on outmoded stereotypes of people’s ‘place’ in our society,” stated John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will enforce the law whenever a housing provider seeks to limit a woman’s housing choices because of her gender or family composition.”

Dovenberg is not licensed in the state of Wisconsin as a real estate salesperson or broker.

Tara Steele is the News Director at The American Genius, covering entrepreneur, real estate, technology news and everything in between. If you'd like to reach Tara with a question, comment, press release or hot news tip, simply click the link below.



  1. Joe Loomer

    September 12, 2011 at 10:46 am

    If it wasn't so sad, this would be funny.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  2. MacKster

    September 12, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    I wonder if there is some validity to this. In Montana, the property owner can be sued if someone slips on an unshovelled walk. As a boy, we always marketed our snow shovelling services to single women and old men because men always shovelled their own walks. They should shift the liability to the renters; discrimination problem solved & then they can hang the old bat.

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