WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today sued Fountain View Apartments, Inc. and its on-site manager, Mildred Chastain, for violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminating on the basis of race or color and familial status in the rental of apartments at a complex in Orange City, Fla.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, charges that the defendants falsely told an African-American prospective tenant that no apartments were available and made discriminatory statements on the basis of familial status. Further testing by a local television station revealed a pattern or practice of misrepresenting the availability of apartments to African-Americans, discouraging African-Americans from renting apartments, and making discriminatory statements based on race or color and familial status.
"The Fair Housing Act ensures that persons have the right to rent an apartment free of racial and familial status discrimination," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. "The Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of all the fair housing laws."
This lawsuit arose as a result of a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by an African-American prospective renter. After investigating the complaint, HUD issued a charge of discrimination, and the complainant elected to have the case heard in federal court.
"Minorities and families should not have doors to housing closed in their faces just because of how they look or because they have children," said Kim Kendrick, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "The message in this case is clear. Landlords who violate the Fair Housing Act will not be tolerated. HUD and the Department of Justice’s will take swift action to address unlawful discrimination whenever it occurs."
The suit seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination by Fountain View Apartments, Inc. and Ms. Chastain, and requiring the defendants to pay monetary damages to the complainant and other persons who may have been injured by the defendants’ conduct and to pay a civil penalty to the government.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Since Jan. 1, 2001, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has filed 248 cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act, 70 of which have alleged discrimination based on race or color, and 48 of which have alleged discrimination based on familial status. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.