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(updated March 11, 2015)

The Housing and Civil Enforcement Section of the Civil Rights Division is responsible for the Departments' enforcement of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), along with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), the land use provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations.

Under the FHA, the Department of Justice may bring lawsuits where there is reason to believe that a person or entity is engaged in a "pattern or practice" of discrimination or where a denial of rights to a group of persons raises an issue of general public importance. The Department of Justice also brings cases where a housing discrimination complaint has been investigated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD has issued a charge of discrimination, and one of the parties to the case has "elected" to go to federal court. In FHA cases, the Department can obtain injunctive relief, including affirmative requirements for training and policy changes, monetary damages and, in pattern or practice cases, civil penalties.

Several cases we have filed or resolved recently exemplify our efforts to ensure the availability of the housing opportunities guaranteed by the Fair Housing Act. (1) The complaints and settlement documents for the cases discussed in the text, as well as other cases handled by the Housing Section, can be found on the Housing Section’s website at www.justice.gov/crt/about/hce/caselist.php.

Fair Lending

  • On February 10, 2015, the United States filed a proposed consent order in United States v. Auto Fare, Inc. (W.D.N.C.). The complaint, which was filed jointly by the Division and the North Carolina Attorney General on January 13, 2014, alleges a pattern or practice of reverse redlining in violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) by two Charlotte buy here pay here auto dealerships, and their common owner, for targeting African Americans with unfair and predatory used car loans that frequently resulted in repossessions. This is the Division's first reverse redlining suit. The proposed consent order requires the dealerships, for four years, to make specific, detailed improvements to a number of their practices, so that the terms of their loans and repossession practices are no longer unfair and predatory, including lower interest rates and more time before repossession. It also requires defendants to establish a $225,000 fund to compensate former borrowers.
  • On January 28, 2015, the court entered a consent order in United States v. First United Bank (N.D. Tex.). The complaint, which was filed on January 15, 2015, alleges that from 2008 to 2012, First United Bank charged higher prices on unsecured consumer loans made to Hispanic borrowers than to similarly-situated non-Hispanic white borrowers. The consent order requires First United Bank to continue to use uniform policies to price unsecured consumer and other loans offered by the bank, in order to ensure that the price charged for its loans is set in a non-discriminatory manner. The settlement also requires the bank to pay at total of $140,000 to Hispanic victims of discrimination, monitor its loans for potential disparities based on national origin, and provide equal credit opportunity training to its employees.
  • On August 11, 2014, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Fifth Third Mortgage Co. (M.D. Ga.). The complaint, filed on August 7, 2014, alleges that Fifth Third Mortgage Company and Cranbrook Mortgage Corporation violated the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act by requiring recipients of disability income to provide a letter from a doctor to substantiate their income. The consent order provides for a $1.5 million fund to compensate victims who had been asked to provide medical documentation to prove the income they received from Social Security Disability Insurance. The bank also agreed to other injunctive relief, including employee training and the implementation of new policies.
  • On June 27, 2014, the court entered the consent order in United States v. Synchrony Bank, f/k/a GE Capital Retail Bank (D. Utah), an Equal Credit Opportunity Act case alleging discrimination on the basis of national origin by denying approximately 108,000 borrowers the opportunity to participate in two credit card debt repayment programs if they had indicated that they preferred communications to be in Spanish or had a mailing address in Puerto Rico. The consent order provides approximately 108,000 borrowers with at least $169 million in remediation, in the form of monetary payments and the reduction or complete waiver of borrowers' credit card balances. The Bank has also agreed to other injunctive relief, including credit repair corrective actions for affected borrowers. This matter was referred to DOJ by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the agencies conducted a joint investigation. The CFPB issued an administrative order concurrent with the Division's filing.
  • On January 9, 2014, the court entered a consent order in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau & United States v. National City Bank (W.D. Pa.), an Equal Credit Opportunity Act and Fair Housing Act case that resulted from a joint investigation by the Division and the CFPB. PNC Bank is the successor in interest to National City Bank. The complaint, which was filed on December 23, 2013, alleged a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of race and national origin in residential mortgage lending. The consent order requires PNC Bank to pay $35 million to African-American and Hispanic victims of National City Bank's discriminatory conduct.
  • On December 23, 2013, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Ally Financial Inc. (E.D. Mich.), an Equal Credit Opportunity Act lawsuit filed on December 20, 2013. The complaint was filed on December 20, 2013 against Ally Financial, Inc. and Ally Bank, which collectively are one of the nation's largest car lenders. The complaint alleged that from April 1, 2011 to the date of filing, Ally discriminated against approximately 235,000 African-American, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander borrowers across the country by systematically charging higher dealer interest rate markups for those borrowers' auto loans as compared to white borrowers. The consent order requires Ally to establish an $80 million settlement fund to pay damages to victims, remunerate borrowers if discriminatory disparities continue during the next three years, and implement an improved compliance management system that includes more robust dealer and company-wide monitoring. The Division's investigation was coordinated with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the complaint and consent order were filed simultaneous with a CFPB administrative settlement order with the same substantive terms, plus an $18 million civil penalty, which only the CFPB has statutory authority to collect.
  • Rental and Sales Discrimination:

  • On March 6, 2015, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Bockes (D. Minn.), a Fair Housing Act case. The complaint, which was filed on July 17, 2014, alleged that the owners and manager of an apartment building in Minneapolis, Minnesota discriminated against a woman and her two year old son on the basis of familial status by refusing to rent them a one-bedroom apartment. The consent order requires the defendants to obtain fair housing training and pay $15,000 in damages and attorney's fees.
  • On November 19, 2014, the Division filed a Fair Housing Act complaint in United States v. Collier (W.D. La.), alleging that the defendant harassed, threatened, and intimidated his neighbor because of her race or national origin and because she had participated in a Department of Justice investigation of a federal fair housing complaint filed against the defendant's brother.

  • On October 17, 2014, the Division filed a Fair Housing Act complaint in United States v. Twin Oaks Mobile Home Park, Inc. (W.D. Wis.), alleging that the owner and managers of a 230-unit mobile home community in Whitewater, Wisconsin enforced explicit policies making sections of the community unavailable to families with children, imposed discriminatory limitations on children and their families, and prevented the sale of a mobile home to a single mother with a two-year-old child.
  • On October 2, 2014, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Ridge Way Management (N.D. Ohio). The complaint, which was filed on September 30, 2014, was based on evidence developed by the Division's Fair Housing Testing Program, and alleges that the owners and managers of a 36-unit apartment building in North Ridgeville, Ohio engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of race in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The consent decree provides for injunctive relief, establishment of a $20,000 settlement fund, and payment of a $10,000 civil penalty.
  • On September 5, 2014, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Zaremba Management Co. (N.D. Ohio), requiring the defendants to pay $90,000 for victims of discrimination and a $10,000 civil penalty. The complaint, filed on September 30, 2013, alleged that the owner and managers of an apartment complex in Cleveland, Ohio violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating on the basis of familial status. This matter was developed by the Division's Fair Housing Testing Program.
  • On August 27, 2014, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Ruth (N.D. Ohio), a Fair Housing Act case filed on October 31, 2011, alleging race and familial status discrimination. The consent order requires defendants to pay $175,000 to eleven victims identified by the United States, a $25,000 civil penalty and an additional $650,000 in damages and attorneys' fees to private plaintiffs and the State of Ohio. The consent order also requires the defendants to hire an independent management company to manage their properties, undergo training and report to the United States for the term of the order.
  • On August 14, 2014, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Martin Family Trust (N.D. Cal.). The consent decree requires the defendants to pay $77,500 in damages to aggrieved persons and a $2,500 civil penalty, attend fair housing training, and develop and implement new procedures for enforcing rules against tenants and guests. The complaint, filed on October 25, 2013, alleged that the owner, manager, and staff of Woodland Garden Apartments discriminated against five families and a local fair housing organization on the basis of familial status and engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against families with children.
  • On July 17, 2014, the court entered a settlement order in United States v. Toone(E.D. Tex.), a Fair Housing case alleging discrimination because of sex. The order requires defendants to modify their non-discrimination policy and pay $4,000 to the aggrieved persons. The complaint, which was filed on October 3, 2013, alleged that the owners of an RV park discriminated on the basis of sex against a transgender resident and her roommate.
  • On April 10, 2014, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. S-2 Properties, Inc. (W.D. Pa.). The complaint, filed on September 30, 2013, alleged that a corporate owner and leasing agent violated the Fair Housing Act on the basis of race. The case originated after a series of three tests were conducted by the Department of Justice's Fair Housing Testing Program between February and April 2013 at Baldwin Commons, a 100-unit rental complex in Pittsburgh. The complaint alleges that white testers were shown apartments and were offered the opportunity to rent them while black testers were told that the same apartments were unavailable to rent. Under the consent decree, the defendants will pay a civil penalty to the United States of $15,000, develop and maintain non-discrimination housing policies and attend fair housing training.
  • Sexual Harassment:

  • On December 10, 2014, the Division filed a complaint in United States v. Southeastern Community and Family Services (M.D.N.C.), against a public housing agency that administers the Section 8 Voucher Program in Scotland County, North Carolina, and its housing inspector and Section 8 housing coordinator. The complaint alleges that these employees sexually harassed female program participants and applicants, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
  • On November 14, 2014, the Division filed a complaint in United States v. Encore Management Co., Inc. (S.D. W. Va.), alleging a pattern or practice of sexual harassment against female tenants in violation of the Fair Housing Act at a 56-unit apartment building in Cross Lanes, West Virginia.
  • On November 10, 2014, the United States filed a complaint in United States v. Wygul (W.D. Tenn.), alleging that the manager of a rental property in Henry, Tennessee subjected a female tenant to sexual harassment in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
  • On August 19, 2014, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. VanderVennen (W.D. Mich.). The consent decree includes $510,000 in damages for at least thirteen victims, a $40,000 civil penalty and the termination of the property manager from managing any residential rental property. The complaint, filed on September 30, 2013, alleged that a property manager at Alger Meadow Apartments in Grand Rapids, Michigan engaged in a pattern or practice of sexually harassing female tenants, prospective tenants and guests.
  • On September 13, 2012, the court entered a consent decree in Hawecker and United States v. Sorensen (E.D. Cal.). The United States' complaint, which was filed on March 25, 2011, alleged that the defendant sexually harassed female tenants by making unwelcome sexual comments and advances, exposing his genitals, touching tenants without their consent, granting and denying housing benefits based on sex and taking adverse actions against women who refused his sexual advances. The defendant has operated his rental business for more than 30 years. The consent decree will result in a judgment against Sorensen requiring him to pay $2,075,000 in monetary damages to 25 individuals identified by the United States as victims of his discriminatory conduct. That amount includes court costs and attorneys' fees for two of the victims who are private plaintiffs. In addition, Sorensen must also pay a $55,000 civil penalty to the United States, the maximum penalty available under the Fair Housing Act. The consent decree requires Sorensen to hire an independent manager to manage his rental properties and imposes strict limits on his ability to have contact with current and future tenants. This represents the largest monetary settlement ever agreed to in a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the Justice Department under the Fair Housing Act.
  • Disability Discrimination:

  • On December 23, 2014, the Division filed a complaint in United States v. Andover Forest Homeowners Ass'n, Inc. (E.D. Ky.), alleging that a 481-member homeowners association in Lexington, Kentucky and its management company violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to allow the parents of a child with cerebral palsy to keep a specially designed playhouse on their property that was needed for their child's occupational and physical therapy.
  • On November 20, 2014, the Division filed a Fair Housing Act complaint in United States v. Westfield Partners (E.D. Pa.), alleging that defendants refused a request by a tenant who used a wheelchair and lived on the second floor to transfer to a first-floor unit when elevator renovations would leave tenants without an elevator for at least six weeks.
  • On November 7, 2014, the United States Attorney's Office filed a complaint in United States v. Avatar Properties, Inc. (D. N.H.), alleging that a condominium complex in Londonderry, New Hampshire refused to assign an accessible parking space to a resident with a spinal cord injury.
  • On November 6, 2014, the United States Attorney's Office filed a complaint in United States v. Westminster Asset Corp. (C.D. Cal.), alleging that the owner and managers of a 312-unit apartment building in Westminster, California refused to rent a unit to a woman because she used an electric mobility scooter and engaged in a pattern or practice or practice of disability discrimination.
  • On November 3, 2014, the court entered the consent decree in United States v. Barber (W.D. Wash.). The complaint, which was filed on July 1, 2013, alleges that defendants discriminated against the HUD complainant by refusing to waive the pet deposit for her emotional support animal, which ameliorated the symptoms of her disability. The consent decree requires defendants to pay $20,000 to the HUD complainant and $5,000 to the United States, and to adopt a reasonable accommodation policy and receive fair housing training.
  • On October 6, 2014, the Division filed a complaint in United States v. Katz (D. Mont.) against the owner and manager of rental apartments in Bozeman, alleging that they charged a $1,000 pet deposit for a service animal owned by a tenant with a traumatic brain injury, despite being requested to waive the deposit as a reasonable accommodation pursuant to the Fair Housing Act. The complaint also alleges that defendant Katz threatened to evict the tenant for seeking the return of the deposit, and to charge her $100 an hour for time spent responding to allegations of discrimination. The complaint was also filed on behalf of the Montana Fair Housing, which assisted the complainant in dealing with the defendants.
  • On September 8, 2014 the Division filed a Fair Housing Act complaint in United States v. Kent State University (N.D. Ohio), alleging that Kent State University, its Board of Trustees, and four individual university officials violated the FHA by refusing to grant reasonable accommodations for students needing to live with assistance animals.
  • On August 20, 2014, the court entered a consent order in United States v. City Rescue Mission(W.D. Pa). The complaint, which was filed on June 28, 2013, alleged a pattern or practice of FHA and ADA violations, including that the defendants discriminated on the basis of disability by refusing to allow the HUD complainant to stay in the homeless shelter with his guide dog. The consent decree requires the defendants to obtain civil rights training and to adopt a new reasonable accommodation policy, including allowing occupants with assistance animals to reside anywhere in the shelter, not just in the infirmary. The decree also contains a $5,000 civil penalty and refers to a separate monetary agreement between the HUD complainant and the defendants.
  • On July 30, 2014, the court entered a consent order in United States v. LCW Family Limited Partnership (D. Neb.), requiring the defendants to adopt a reasonable accommodation and service animal policy, pay $8,000 to the aggrieved person, and pay a $1,000 in a civil penalty to the United States. The Fair Housing Act complaint, filed on November 25, 2013, alleged discrimination against people who use assistance animals at an apartment complex outside Omaha, Nebraska.
  • On June 5, 2014, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Gulf Shores Apts (S.D. Ala.). The consent order includes $90,000 in monetary damages and attorney's fees for the HUD complainant, who intervened in the case, as well as injunctive relief. The complaint, which was filed on October 30, 2013, alleged that the owners and managers of a 50-unit apartment complex in Gulf Shores, Alabama discriminated against a woman with a seizure disorder, limited mobility and mental disabilities on the basis of disability and sex.
  • On May 28, 2014, the court entered a consent order in United States v. The Whitacres, LLC (N.D. W. Va.), a case referred by HUD. The consent order provides for $10,000 for the complainants and several injunctive measures. The complaint, which was filed on November 14, 2013, alleged that the manager of The Whitacres Mobile Home Community discriminated against the HUD complainants by attempting multiple evictions after they made an accommodation request for an emotional assistance animal.
  • On April 19, 2013, the court granted the United States' motion for partial summary judgment and ruled that the University's student housing, including apartments and traditional dormitories, are dwellings covered by the Fair Housing Act in United States v. Univ. of Nebraska (D. Neb.). The complaint, filed on November 23, 2011, alleges that the University of Nebraska at Kearney violated the Fair Housing Act on the basis of disability by denying a reasonable accommodation request by a student with a mental disability to live with her assistance animal in off-campus student apartments. The University had argued that student housing is not covered by the Fair Housing Act.
  • "Design and Construction" Cases:

  • On February 4, 2015, the court entered a final partial consent decree in United States v. Related Companies (S.D.N.Y.). The complaint, which was filed on March 17, 2014 against the designers and developers of One Carnegie Hill Apartments and Tribeca Green Apartments in New York City, alleges that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to design and construct these properties to be accessible to persons with disabilities. This decree resolves the litigation with respect to the architects, and requires payments to aggrieved persons of up to $32,000, and payment of a $32,000 civil penalty to the United States. An earlier consent decree with the developers and builders provided for the retrofitting of public and common use areas and dwelling units, a settlement fund of $825,000 for payments to aggrieved persons and $100,000 in civil penalties.
  • On November 13, 2014, the United States filed a Statement of Interest in Equal Rights Center v. Equity Residential(D. Md.), arguing that 1) violations of the HUD Fair Housing Amendments Act Guidelines establish a prima facie case that the Act's design and construction provisions have been violated, which may be overcome only by showing compliance with a comparable, objective accessibility standard; and 2) the failure to design and construct accessible multifamily housing is a discrete violation of the Fair Housing Act.
  • On November 13, 2014, the court entered a partial consent decree resolving claims against two of the defendants in United States v. Noble Homes (N.D. Ohio). The complaint, which was filed on December 2, 2013, and amended on May 14, 2014, alleges that the defendants failed to design and construct two neighboring condominium complexes in Hartsville, Ohio with the accessibility features required by the Fair Housing Act. One of the defendants was responsible for building one of the fourteen covered buildings at issue, and that building had less severe accessibility violations than were present at the other covered buildings. Pursuant to the decree, this defendant, who is no longer in the business of building multifamily housing, will pay $5,000 into a fund available for retrofits and a $2,500 civil penalty.
  • On October 7, 2014, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Nistler (D. Mont.). The complaint, filed on September 12, 2013, alleged that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act when they designed and constructed an eight-unit apartment building in Helena, Montana without the accessibility features required by the Act. The consent decree provides for retrofits to exteriors, public and common use areas, and unit interiors at that property, and two additional eight-unit apartment properties currently owned by the defendants; $17,500 to Montana Fair Housing, which brought the original HUD complaint and intervened in the suit; an $8,500 civil penalty; and training, reporting, and other injunctive relief.
  • On September 29, 2014, the Division filed a complaint in United States v. Biafora's Inc. (N.D. W. Va.), alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act through the design and construction of twenty-three residential properties in West Virginia and Pennsylvania with steps, insufficient maneuvering space, excessive slopes, and other barriers for persons with disabilities.
  • On September 29, 2014, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Pauley (S.D. W. Va.). The complaint>, which was filed on December 18, 2013, alleges that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by building multi-family housing developments with features that made them inaccessible to persons with disabilities. The consent decree requires the defendants to pay $110,000 and to make all retrofits required to remove accessibility barriers at 30 apartment complexes throughout the state of West Virginia.
  • On August 11, 2014, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Tower 31 LLC, Atlantic 31st LLC, Costas Kondylis & Partners LLP & Alan L. Goldstein (S.D.N.Y.). The complaint, filed on August 5, 2014 by the United States Attorney's Office, alleged that the defendants failed to design and construct the Tower 31 apartment building in New York City in compliance with the Fair Housing Act's accessibility guidelines. The consent decree with developers Tower 31 LLC and Atlantic 31st LLC requires them to perform retrofits of certain noncompliant features in the public and common-use areas and in the dwelling units of Tower 31 and to pay at least $100,000, and up to $300,000, to compensate persons aggrieved by the alleged discriminatory housing practices at Tower 31, as well as a civil penalty of $35,000. Litigation will proceed against architect-designers Costas Kondylis & Partners LLP, and Alan L. Goldstein.
  • On June 5, 2014, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. 2 Gold, LLC (S.D.N.Y.). The complaint, filed on April 23, 2013 by the United States Attorney's Office, alleged that the defendants failed to design and construct a residential apartment complex in New York City to be accessible to persons with disabilities. This decree resolves the litigation with respect to the architects. A previous decree, entered April 24, 2013, resolved the claims against the developers. This decree provides for standard injunctive relief, review of the architects' future designs by a qualified compliance reviewer, a civil penalty of $35,000 and a fund of $45,000 for payments to aggrieved persons.
  • On May 23, 2014, the Division filed a complaint in United States v. Dawn Properties, Inc. (S.D. Miss.) for failure to design and construct multi-family dwellings in a manner accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, in violation of the Fair Housing Act and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • On April 16, 2014, the United States Attorney's Office filed a complaint in United States v. The Durst Organization (S.D.N.Y.), against the designers and developers of The Helena, an apartment building in New York City. The complaint alleges that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to design and construct the property so as to be accessible to persons with disabilities.
  • Discriminatory Land Use and Zoning Practices

  • On July 31, 2014, the court approved a Settlement Agreement between the United States and the Louisiana State Bond Commission in United States v. City of New Orleans (E.D. La.), requiring the Bond Commission to comply with the Fair Housing Act, to refrain from adopting any future moratorium that would affect funding of affordable housing in New Orleans, and to treat any future applications in connection with the Esplanade project in accordance with its established rules and standards. In this action under the Fair Housing Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we alleged that the City and the Bond Commission interfered with the conversion of a former nursing home into permanent supportive housing for persons with disabilities (the Esplanade project). On April 17, 2014, the court entered a settlement agreement with the City of New Orleans.
  • On June 16, 2014, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. City of San Jacinto (C.D. Cal.), a Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) case alleging that the City engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against the residents and providers of group homes for persons with disabilities when it passed an ordinance restricting the location and operation of such homes within the city and targeted those homes for enforcement actions. The City's alleged enforcement efforts included an unannounced, early morning sweep of unlicensed homes by city officials and Riverside County sheriff's deputies acting as agents for the city who interrogated the residents from a prepared questionnaire, asking them such questions as whether they were mentally ill, whether they were on "psych meds," whether they were currently using illegal drugs and whether they were registered sex offenders. The consent decree requires the city to pay a total of $757,599, which includes compensatory damages to housing providers and former residents with disabilities, the attorney's fees and costs of the three private plaintiffs, whose suit was consolidated with that of the Division, and a $10,000 civil penalty to the United States. As part of the settlement agreement does not resolve the United States' claims against the Louisiana State Bond Commission, the city rewrote its zoning code and created a new classification, "Group Homes for Persons with Disabilities," making such homes permitted uses in all residential zones. The city also revised its process for providing persons with disabilities exceptions to its zoning and land use requirements to comport with the FHA and ADA. In addition, the decree requires the city to pay for fair housing training of its officials, including council members and law enforcement officers acting as agents for the city; maintain records relating to future proposals for housing for persons with disabilities; and submit compliance reports to the Division for five years.
  • On April 10, 2014, the United States Attorney's Office filed a complaint in United States v. Town of Oyster Bay (E.D.N.Y.), alleging that the Town of Oyster Bay, the town supervisor, and Long Island Housing Partnership "LIHP") discriminated against African Americans, in violation of the Fair Housing Act, through the use of a residency preference in the administration of two affordable housing programs, one for first-time homebuyers and one for seniors. On April 12, 2014, the court approved a settlement between the United States and LIHP requiring LIHP to ensure that residency preferences it administers do not violate fair housing laws and to educate consumers, developers, lenders, realtors, public officials, community groups and the general public about the requirements of fair housing laws.
  • On March 25, 2014, the court entered a consent decree and judgment in United States v. Incorporated Village of Island Park (E.D.N.Y.). This False Claims Act and Fair Housing Act case, filed by the United States Attorney's Office in 1990, alleged that the Village committed fraud against the United States and discriminated against African Americans in the administration of a single family housing program funded by HUD. The consent decree contains an admission of liability under the False Claims Act and the Fair Housing Act, permanently enjoins the Village from discriminating and requires the Village to adopt a fair housing resolution, participate annually in a fair housing training program and retain an independent third party to act as its fair housing administrator. The fair housing administrator is required to implement an affirmative marketing plan. The Village is required to pay $1,961,100 in monetary relief: (1) $300,000 to fund the fair housing administrator; (2) $568,000 to pay the United States under the False Claims Act; and (3) $1,093,100 over the next six years to fund the other injunctive relief.
  • In addition to these and the many other cases that we bring to ensure fair housing opportunities, the Division also is involved in ongoing efforts to educate the public and various entities involved in the housing industry about their rights and responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act. On April 30, 2013, we issued a Joint Statement on the Accessibility (Design and Construction) Requirements for Multifamily Dwellings under the Fair Housing Act with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The joint statement, issued in the form of questions and answers, supplements previously-issued guidance and is designed to help design professionals, developers and builders better understand their obligations and help persons with disabilities better understand their rights regarding the "design and construction" requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act. The guidance is available online at http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/hce/documents/jointstatement_accessibility_4-30-13.pdf.

    On March 5, 2008, we issued a Joint Statement on Reasonable Modifications under the Fair Housing Act with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The joint statement provides technical assistance, in a series of questions and answers, regarding the rights and obligations of persons with disabilities and housing providers relating to reasonable modifications, and is available online at http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/hce/documents/reasonable_modifications_mar08.pdf.

    In 2004, we issued a Joint Statement on Reasonable Accommodations with HUD, providing technical assistance relating to reasonable accommodations under the Fair Housing Act. It is available online at http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/hce/jointstatement_ra.pdf.

    Public Accommodations (Title II)

  • On September 20, 2012, the Bankruptcy Court approved the stipulated settlement agreement resolving United States v. Valley Club of Huntingdon Valley, Inc. (E.D. Pa.). The complaint, filed in the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 2010, alleged race discrimination under Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Division filed its complaint following an incident at the Valley Club in June 2009. Creative Steps, Inc., a Northeast Philadelphia children's day camp, had paid the club a fee to give its campers access to the club's swimming pool for the summer. On the first and only day they swam, some of the children reported hearing racial slurs while at the pool. Shortly thereafter, the club refunded the day camp's membership fee and prohibited the children from returning to swim. The settlement agreement stipulates that once the administration of the Estate and the bankruptcy case are closed and allowed costs and fees are paid, the remaining assets will be paid to more than 60 children, their camp counselors and to Creative Steps. The settlement also provides that $65,000 will be set aside from the proceeds of the sale of the Valley Club property for the creation of a Leadership Council that comprises former Valley Club members, Creative Steps counselors, campers and their families. The children and families affected by the Valley Club incident will take leadership roles in planning swimming, educational and recreational opportunities for the community.
  • Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)

  • On January 5, 2015, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. City of St. Anthony (D. Minn.). The complaint, which was filed on August 27, 2014, alleges that the city violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) when it denied a conditional use permit to a mosque to locate on the ground floor of an office building. Under the consent decree, the City will allow the mosque to conduct religious worship at its property in the City by a rezoning method known as a Planned Unit Development (PUD). This will grant AHIC permanent religious use of its property. The City also agreed to an injunction to follow RLUIPA, to make information about RLUIPA available on its website, to educate its City Council, Planning Commission, and other officials and employees on RLUIPA, to retain records for inspection by the United States upon request, and to make periodic reports to the United States.
  • On March 8, 2013, the court approved an agreed order in United States v. City of Lomita (C.D. Cal.). The complaint, filed on February 1, 2013, alleged that the city violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) when it denied the Islamic Center of the South Bay's application to tear down the aging and scattered structures on its property and construct a new mosque. The denial is alleged to have created a substantial burden on the religious exercise of the Islamic Center and its members in violation of RLUIPA. The agreed order requires the city to consider a renewed application by the Islamic Center on an expedited schedule contained in a separate agreement between the city and the Islamic Center that was filed as an attachment to the Division's proposed agreed order. The settlement also contains recordkeeping, reporting, and training requirements for city officials.
  • Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

  • On February 26, 2015, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Santander Consumer USA (N.D. Tex.). The complaint, which was filed on February 25, 2015, alleged that Santander, which is one of the nation's largest retail auto lenders, was responsible for the repossession from January 2008 to February 2013 of 1,112 automobiles from protected servicemembers without obtaining court orders, in violation of Section 532 of the SCRA. The consent order requires Santander to pay at least $9.36 million to the victims of illegal repossessions, whom the United States has identified based on Santander's records, implement repossession and customer communication policies that will promote compliance with the SCRA, train its employees and agents on the policies, and pay a $55,000 civil penalty.
  • On February 9, 2015, the United States announced that under the settlement in United States v. Bank of America Corp., Citibank, NA, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Ally Financial, Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. (D.D.C.), commonly referred to as the National Mortgage Settlement (NMS), 952 servicemembers and their co-borrowers are eligible to receive over $123 million for non-judicial mortgage foreclosures that violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). In the first round of payments, 666 service members and their co-borrowers will receive over $88 million from JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi and GMAC Mortgage. The other 286 servicemembers and their co-borrowers have received or will receive over $35 million from Bank of America through an earlier settlement. The foreclosures at issue took place between January 1, 2006, and April 4, 2012 (the day the settlements were approved by the court). Under the consent orders, the nation's five largest mortgage loan servicers are conducting reviews to identify servicemembers who were foreclosed on either judicially or non-judicially in violation of the SCRA or who were unlawfully charged interest in excess of six percent on their mortgages. As a result of these settlements, the majority of all foreclosures against servicemembers are now subject to court-ordered review. Most foreclosure victims identified through these reviews are being compensated a minimum of $125,000 each plus any lost equity with interest, and victims of violations of the SCRA's six percent interest rate cap identified through these reviews will be compensated by the amount wrongfully charged in excess of six percent, plus triple the amount refunded, or $500, whichever is larger. These agreements were incorporated into the historic mortgage servicer settlement between the United States and 49 state attorneys general and these five servicers, which provides for $25 billion in relief based on the servicers' illegal mortgage loan servicing practices. All five servicers agreed to numerous other measures, including SCRA training for employees and agents and developing SCRA policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the SCRA in the future. The servicers are also repairing negative credit report entries related to the allegedly wrongful foreclosures and will not pursue any remaining amounts owed under the mortgages.
  • On September 29, 2014, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Sallie Mae, Inc. (D. Del.). The complaint, which was filed on May 13, 2014, alleges that three separate owners or servicers of private and federally guaranteed student loans (collectively "Sallie Mae") violated the SCRA when, from November 28, 2005 to the present, they failed to reduce to 6% the interest rates on pre-service loans held by over 60,000 servicemembers. The consent order provides for a $60 million settlement fund to compensate aggrieved servicemembers and a $55,000 civil penalty, requires Sallie Mae to streamline the process by which servicemembers may obtain SCRA interest rate benefits and requires Sallie Mae to correct negative credit entries associated with interest overcharges and improper default judgments. In addition, the consent decree has required the payment of a total of $33,613 to compensate the five servicemembers against whom Sallie Mae obtained improper default judgments.
  • On December 21, 2012, the court entered an amended consent order in United States v. Capital One, N.A. (E.D. Va.), settling a lawsuit which alleged the defendants violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The defendant has agreed to pay approximately $12 million to resolve the matter. The settlement covers a range of conduct that violated the protections guaranteed servicemembers by the SCRA, including wrongful foreclosures, improper repossessions of motor vehicles, wrongful court judgments, improper denials of the 6 percent interest rate the SCRA guarantees to servicemembers on some credit card and car loans, and insufficient 6 percent benefits granted on credit cards, car loans and other types of accounts. The agreement requires Capital One to pay approximately $12 million in damages to servicemembers for SCRA violations, including at least $125,000 in compensation plus compensation for any lost equity (with interest) to each servicemember whose home was unlawfully foreclosed upon, and at least $10,000 in compensation plus compensation for any lost equity (with interest) to each servicemember whose motor vehicle was unlawfully repossessed. The approximately $3 that remained after payments to servicemembers were made were donated by Capital One military emergency relief socieites. The consent order, which was filed simultaneously with the complaint on July 26, 2012, is one of the most comprehensive SCRA settlements ever obtained by a government agency or any private party under the SCRA.
  • General Information Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
     
    Leadership
    Steven H. Rosenbaum
    Chief
    Contact
    Housing & Civil
    Enforcement Section
    (202) 514-4713
    TTY - 202-305-1882
    FAX - (202) 514-1116
    To Report an Incident of Housing Discrimination:
    1-800-896-7743
    Mailing Contact
    U.S. Department of Justice
    Civil Rights Division
    950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
    Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, NWB
    Washington, D.C. 20530

    Email: fairhousing@usdoj.gov

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