WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement with the owners and managers of the Hickory Plantation and Willow Way Apartments, both located in Camden County, Ga., resolving a lawsuit filed by the Department alleging discrimination against persons with disabilities. According to the complaint, which was filed simultaneously with the consent decree in federal district court in Savannah, Ga., Defendants Herbert Bolt, Betty Bolt, and Herbert Bolt, Jr. violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent an apartment at Hickory Plantation to a visually impaired individual who used a guide dog.
Under the agreement, which must still be approved by the court, the defendants will pay $35,000 to compensate victims at Hickory Plantation and Willow Way, pay a $20,000 civil penalty to the U.S. government, establish and follow non-discriminatory tenancy procedures, undergo fair housing training, and file reports with the government.
“Individuals who use guide dogs are entitled to the same housing opportunities as people who don’t,” said Rena J. Comisac, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Landlords must understand that they have a responsibility to make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities, and where they fail to do so, the Department will enforce the law.”
The Department conducted its investigation using fair-housing testers – individuals who pose as renters for purposes of gathering information about possible discriminatory practices in the rental of apartments.
This case is another example of the success of Operation Home Sweet Home, 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 www.usdoj.gov/fairhousing.
Individuals who believe that they may have been the victim of housing discrimination at Hickory Plantation or Willow Way should call the Justice Department’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section at 1-800-896-7743 (option number 93), or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since Jan. 1, 2001, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has filed 238 cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act, 112 of which have alleged discrimination based on disability. http://www.usdoj.gov/crt.