Just yesterday the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had resolved a race/national origin fair housing case from Texas for $317,000 in which it was alleged that individuals of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent were discriminated against. Under the terms of the agreement, the defendants will pay a total of $107,000 in civil penalties and $210,000 in a damage fund to compensate victims of the defendants’ alleged discrimination.
The settlement agreement was in the form of a joint proposed order, the terms of which must be approved by a federal judge in Dallas. DOJ’s complaint alleged that for several years, the owners, employees and management company of an apartment community violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) by denying housing opportunities to persons of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent. Specifically, DOJ contended that the former property manager ordered leasing agents to misrepresent apartment availability based on the accent and perceived race or national origin of potential tenants, and/or to segregate those approved tenants of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent into two buildings in order to isolate any smells which may have been associated with ethnic cuisine that the manager disliked.
As is common in circumstances like this, the defendants also must adopt a nondiscrimination policy and undertake numerous other corrective measures, including training, record keeping and monitoring. Not surprisingly, the property manager who allegedly ordered the discrimination is no longer employed by the property owners or its management company.
It goes without saying that professional apartment management cannot misrepresent availability of units and we similarly cannot steer applicants into certain buildings or floors. While there are always two sides to every case, if you learn of anything like this at your property, you may really need to see a lawyer like me.
Just A Thought.