Here is another example of a recent Fair Housing Act lawsuit brought by the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) against a housing provider. I try to post case summaries in order to provide timely updates to real estate professionals about the "dos and don'ts" under the Fair Housing Act, since fair housing is such an important issue.
Earlier today (Tuesday, July 6, 2010), the owners and operators of Ivanhoe House Apartments, an apartment complex in Ann Arbor, Michigan, agreed to pay $82,500 to settle a fair housing lawsuit filed by the DOJ alleging that they had discriminated against African-American home-seekers.
On March 3, 2010, the DOJ filed the fair housing lawsuit alleging that the apartment complex's property manager had racially discriminated in the rental and inspection of apartments. The case was developed through testing conducted by the Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan (a private non-profit organization located in Ann Arbor). The lawsuit was based upon evidence generated by a series of fair housing tests conducted by the Center. In the tests, individuals posed as prospective renters for purposes of determining whether the defendants were providing equal treatment to similarly situated home seekers in compliance with the Fair Housing Act.
According to the lawsuit, the testing revealed that the defendants repeatedly and consistently treated African-American apartment-seekers less favorably than white apartment-seekers. Specifically, the complaint alleged that Ivanhoe House Apartments:
- Denied the availability of apartments for rent or inspection to African-American persons while at the same time telling white persons about apartments available to rent or inspect;
- Failed to provide African-American persons information about the availability of apartments to rent or inspect that is full, complete, and consistent with the information provided to white persons;
- Failed to provide to African-American persons the same terms, conditions, or privileges related to the renting of apartments as are provided to white persons; and
- Refused to accept or process applications by African American persons because of their race or color.
As a result, the DOJ alleged that the defendants had violated the Fair housing Act by:
- Refusing to negotiate for the rental of, or otherwise making unavailable or denying dwellings to persons because of race or color, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a);
- Discriminating against persons in the terms, conditions or privileges of rental, or in providing services in connection therewith, because of race or color, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b); and
- Representing to persons because of race or color that dwellings are not available for inspection or rental when such dwellings are in fact so available, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(d).
Under the terms of today’s settlement, the defendants are required to pay $35,000 in damages to three victims who were discriminated against because of their race . The defendants are also required to pay $7,500 in a civil penalty to the United States and to and pay $40,000 to the Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan as damages for the non-profit’s efforts in testing and investigating the apartment complex. The settlement also requires the defendants and their employees to undergo fair housing training, conduct self-testing of the apartment complex, and provide periodic reports to the DOJ and the Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan.
As every real estate professional should already know, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, sex, color, national origin, disability, religion and familial status.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Justice press release and legal complaint and settlement documents (portions of press release used with the express permission of the DOJ)
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