The Department of Housing and Urban Development reached settlements Thursday with Magna Bank and Home Loan Center, resolving allegations that they denied mortgages to women because they were pregnant and on maternity leave.
The announcement of the settlement arrives 44 years to the month in which the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination in lending, sales and rental transactions based on a person’s sex or family status, was enacted.
The settlement agreement signed by Nashville, Tenn.-based Magna Bank requires the bank to pay one woman $14,085 for allegedly requiring her to return to work before her loan application was approved.
Irvine, Calif.-based Home Loan Center agreed to pay a Las Vegas woman $15,000 for denying her application to refinance her mortgage because she was on maternity leave.
Magna Bank declined to comment and Home Loan Center could not be reached.
HUD has 18 active cases on file from the past year regarding maternity leave. Three are in conciliation, and the rest are active investigations. HUD spokesperson Shantae Goodloe said the department jumps on this issue as it arises, but only has data for the last two years.
“Women shouldn’t have to choose between buying or refinancing a home and exercising their right to have a family,” said John Trasviña, HUD assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will take appropriate action anytime we determine that discrimination has occurred.”
In June 2011, HUD filed suit against mortgage insurer Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corp., alleging the firm denied a couple's mortgage insurance application on the grounds the wife was on maternity leave.
HUD alleged that in July 2010, MGIC sent an e-mail about the family's loan application saying, "rec'd updated bank statements along with e-mail from borrower that states she is on maternity leave … notifying her that we cannot proceed until borrower is back to work full time."
Goodloe said the MGIC case is in litigation. "HUD issued a charge in the case, a party elected to have the case brought in federal district court and the United States Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit," she said.
Shortly before the MGIC complaint, HUD reached a settlement with Houston-based Cornerstone Mortgage Co., accusing it of discriminating against expectant mothers.
Fair Housing Month, celebrated each April, was created to commemorate the enactment of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which became law one week after the April 4 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and prohibited discrimination based on race, color, national origin and religion.
In 1974, the Act was expanded to include discrimination based on gender, and in 1988 it was expanded to cover persons with disabilities and discrimination based on family status, including a woman’s maternity status.