If we needed another reminder that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) continues to look for housing discrimination cases, DOJ issued a press release last week in which it announced a settlement with the owners and operators of a mobile home park in Illinois to resolve allegations of race and familial status discrimination. Under the terms of the agreement, the defendants will pay $217,500 to victims (and their lawyers) as well as an additional $34,000 to the government as a civil penalty.
The DOJ’s complaint contended the site manager refused to let an African American individual be added as a resident when he moved in with his white girlfriend and her uncle. There were additional allegations, including that the African American man was harassed by the son of the site manager. Ultimately, the residents vacated their home after management threatened them with eviction if the African American resident did not move out.
Next, a fair housing testing group and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development joined DOJ’s efforts and sent in various testers. According to DOJ, the testing concluded that the site manager treated prospective residents differently based on their race by, for example, requiring African American testers to fill out applications while not requiring white testers to do so. DOJ also contended that the manager asked African American testers if they had felonies but did not ask the same question of white testers. DOJ also asserted that there had been no African American residents at the mobile home park since at least 2007. Finally, the complaint alleged that management discriminated on the basis of familial status (families having hildren under the age of 18) by prohibiting families from living on one of the four rows of lots at the mobile home park.
This case (with admittedly strong alleged facts) reminds all of us in the professional apartment business that we must remain vigilant and apply our non-discriminatory resident selection criteria evenly across the board. Ask the same questions to all your applicants. Show everyone the same available units. Let applicants choose from available units for which they qualify. If you do not do it right, then you may need to speak with a lawyer like me.
Just A Thought.