WASHINGTON - The Civil Rights Division today announced the first lawsuit ever filed by the Department alleging discrimination against Asian-Americans based upon its fair housing tests–an example of the Division’s successful efforts in Operation Home Sweet Home. The complaint alleges that Pine Properties Inc. and six affiliated entities violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating based on national origin against Cambodian-Americans seeking to rent apartments. The defendants own and operate 14 rental properties in Lowell, Mass.
The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Boston, alleges that the defendants subjected Cambodian-American apartment seekers to requirements not imposed on white apartment seekers. It further alleges that the defendants’ actions included refusing to show available apartments to Cambodian-American apartment seekers because they did not have a separate appointment, while at the same time taking white persons to see available dwellings immediately, with no prior appointment.
The lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination and requiring the defendants to pay monetary damages to compensate victims and a civil penalty.
“Operation Home Sweet Home uncovered discrimination against Cambodian-Americans–a protected class,” said Rena J. Comisac, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Applying more stringent standards to Cambodian-American apartment seekers is just as discriminatory as a blatant policy of refusing to rent to them.”
The Department of Justice conducted its investigation in this case through the use of fair-housing testers – individuals who pose as renters to gather information about possible discriminatory practices in the rental of apartments. This is the first lawsuit alleging discrimination against Asian-American that the Department has filed based on such testing evidence.
Operation Home Sweet Home is a concentrated initiative of the Department of Justice to expose and eliminate housing discrimination in America. This initiative was inspired by the plight of displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina who were suddenly forced to find new places to live. Operation Home Sweet Home is not limited to the areas hit by Hurricane Katrina and targets housing discrimination across the country. More information about Operation Home Sweet Home is available at the Justice Department Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/fairhousing.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. Since Jan. 1, 2001, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has filed 237 cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act. For more information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces, visit http://www.usdoj.gov/crt. Individuals who believe they may have been injured by the defendants’ discrimination should call the Department at 1-800-896-7743, ext. 95.