WASHINGTON — The Justice Department announced today that the owner and the manager of Pecan Terrace Apartments in Lafayette, La., have agreed to pay up to $145,000 to resolve claims that they discriminated against families with children in violation of the Fair Housing Act. According to the Department’s complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Pecan Terrace Apartments, LLC, and Taufiq M. Sekhani had and exercised a policy of refusing to rent second floor units to families with children and discouraging families with children from renting at the complex.
“Operation Home Sweet Home has been targeting housing discrimination in the post-Katrina market since 2006,” said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously protect the civil rights of families in Louisiana and across the country.”
The Department conducted its investigation through the use of fair-housing testers, individuals who pose as renters for the purpose of gathering information about possible discriminatory practices in the rental of apartments.
Under the agreement, which is subject to court approval, the defendants will pay up to $115,000 to compensate victims of discrimination at Pecan Terrace Apartments, as well as pay $30,000 in civil penalties to the United States. The settlement also calls for numerous corrective measures, including training on the requirements of federal housing law, a nondiscrimination policy, record keeping and monitoring.
In February 2006, in the aftermath of the housing crisis caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Department announced Operation Home Sweet Home–a concentrated initiative to expose and combat housing discrimination in America. Operation Home Sweet Home targets housing discrimination all over the country, not just areas hit by Hurricane Katrina.
“This resolution confirms that the Department of Justice remains committed to enforcing the nation’s anti-discrimination laws as a means of protecting citizens–particularly those made vulnerable by natural disasters–from the unscrupulous behavior by others,” said Donald W. Washington, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana.
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 271 cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act, 54 of which 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 at Pecan Terrace Apartments can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.