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(updated June 3, 2014)

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 January 13, 2014, the Division filed a complaint in United States and State of North Carolina v. Auto Fare, Inc. (W.D.N.C.), an Equal Credit Opportunity Act case. The complaint alleges that the owners and operator of two ""buy here, pay here" used car dealers engaged in "reverse redlining," or targeting African-American customers for unfair and predatory credit practices, in the financing of used car purchases. The State of North Carolina also alleges that the defendants' actions violated the state Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
  • 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 January 2, 2014, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Fort Davis State Bank (W.D. Tex), an Equal Credit Opportunity Act case. The complaint, which was filed on December 19, 2013, alleges a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of national origin in unsecured consumer loans. The consent order requires the bank to pay $159,000 to affected borrowers, maintain uniform pricing policies, and conduct fair lending training for its employees. This matter was referred to the Civil Rights Division by the FDIC.
  • 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.
  • On October 11, 2013, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Southport Bank (E.D. Wis.), a Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act pattern or practice case that was referred by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The complaint, filed on September 26, 2013, alleges that from 2007 to 2008, Southport charged higher broker fees on wholesale mortgage loans made to African-American and Hispanic borrowers as compared to non-Hispanic white borrowers. Under the settlement, Southport will pay $687,000 to African-American and Hispanic victims of discrimination.
  • On October 4, 2013, the court entered a Settlement Agreement and Order in United States v. Chevy Chase Bank F.S.B. (E.D. Va.). The successor in interest to Chevy Chase Bank is Capital One N.A. The complaint, filed on September 30, 2013, alleged a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of race and national origin in violation of the Fair Housing Act and ECOA. Under the settlement, Capital One will pay $2.85 million to approximately 3,100 African-American and Hispanic victims of discrimination.
  • On October 1, 2013, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Plaza Home Mortgage, Inc. (S.D. Cal.), a Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act pattern or practice case that was referred by the Federal Trade Commission. The complaint, filed on September 26, 2013, alleged that from 2006 to 2010, Plaza charged higher broker fees on wholesale mortgage loans made to African-American and Hispanic borrowers than to similarly-situated non-Hispanic borrowers. The consent order requires Plaza to pay $3 million to African-American and Hispanic victims of discrimination, develop race-and national origin-neutral policies and practices, establish a monitoring program to detect future potential fair lending violations, conduct employee training, and maintain a community development program for the five-year term of the order.
  • On September 4, 2013, the court entered a final partial consent order resolving the United States' Equal Credit Opportunity Act claims against Union Auto Sales in United States v. Union Auto Sales d/b/a Union Mitsubishi (C.D. Cal.). The amended complaint alleges that UAS charged non-Asian customers, many of whom are Hispanic, higher "overages" or "dealer mark-ups" than similarly-situated Asian customers. The partial consent order requires UAS to pay approximately $115,000 to compensate non-Asian borrowers who have been aggrieved by the alleged discriminatory conduct.
  • On December 19, 2012, the Department notified the court in United States v. Wells Fargo Bank (D.D.C.) that the bank will provide $59.3 million in compensation to African-American and Hispanic retail subprime borrowers. Under the consent order, entered on September 21, 2012, Wells Fargo agreed to undertake an internal review to determine whether there were African-American and/or Hispanic borrowers who received subprime Wells Fargo loans from the bank's retail channel who might have qualified for prime loans from the retail channel. The consent order provided that any borrowers identified pursuant to the review would be compensated in an amount commensurate with the amounts paid to borrowers who received subprime loans from the bank's wholesale division. As a result of its review, Wells Fargo identified nearly 4,000 retail subprime borrowers who are eligible for compensation. With the additional compensation to retail subprime borrowers, the Division's settlement with Wells Fargo totals $234.3 million. The complaint, filed on July 12, 2012, alleged that Wells Fargo engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against qualified African-American and Hispanic borrowers in its mortgage lending from 2004 through 2009. The complaint alleged that Wells Fargo discriminated by steering approximately 4,000 African-American and Hispanic wholesale borrowers, as well as additional retail borrowers, into subprime mortgages when non-Hispanic white borrowers with similar credit profiles received prime loans. All the borrowers who were allegedly discriminated against were qualified for Wells Fargo mortgage loans according to Well Fargo's own underwriting criteria. The United States also alleged that, between 2004 and 2009, Wells Fargo discriminated by charging approximately 30,000 African-American and Hispanic wholesale borrowers higher fees and rates than non-Hispanic white borrowers because of their race or national origin rather than the borrowers' credit worthiness or other objective criteria related to borrower risk. The consent order provided $125 million in compensation for wholesale borrowers who were allegedly steered into subprime mortgages or who allegedly paid higher fees and rates than white borrowers because of their race or national origin. Wells Fargo was also required to pay $50 million in direct down payment assistance to borrowers in communities around the country where the Department identified large numbers of discrimination victims and which were hard hit by the housing crisis.
  • On December 28, 2011, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Countrywide Financial Corporation, Countrywide Home Loans and Countrywide Bank (C.D. Cal.), resolving the United States' claims of race, national origin and marital status discrimination in residential mortgage lending and providing $335 million in monetary relief for victims of discrimination. The claims in the United States' complaint, which was filed on December 21, 2011, are the largest pattern or practice lending discrimination violations of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act ever alleged by the Division. The United States' complaint alleges that from 2004 to 2008, Countrywide discriminated against more than 10,000 Hispanic and African-American borrowers across the country by systematically giving those borrowers subprime loans while similarly-situated white borrowers received prime loans. The complaint also alleges that Countrywide discriminated against more than 200,000 Hispanic and African-American borrowers by systematically charging higher discretionary fees and markups to those borrowers than to white borrowers. The complaint further alleges that the defendants discriminated on the basis of marital status by encouraging non-applicant spouses to forfeit their property rights as part of their spouse obtaining a Countrywide loan. The consent order provides that the $335 million settlement fund will be distributed to victims by an independent administrator, and that if Countrywide re-enters the business of home mortgage lending, it must adopt fair lending policies and procedures that will be subject to review by the Division.
  • Rental and Sales Discrimination:

  • 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.
  • On February 4, 2014, the Division filed a complaint in United States v. Wallschlaeger (S.D. Ill.), a case alleging discrimination based on race and familial status by the owners and operators of a mobile home park in Effingham, Illinois. The case is based on evidence developed by the Division's Fair Housing Testing Program.
  • On January 8, 2014, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Stonebridge (N.D. Tex), a Fair Housing Act pattern or practice case against the owners and operators of Stonebridge Apartments, a 184-unit complex outside of Dallas. The complaint, which was filed on April 5, 2013, alleged that the defendants denied apartments to persons of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent, misrepresented apartment availability on the basis of race and national origin, and segregated those persons who were not denied into designated buildings. The consent decree requires training of staff, the adoption of fair housing policies, termination of the apartment manager, $210,000 in damages and $107,000 in civil penalties.
  • On January 8, 2014, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Allegro Apts (E.D. Wis.), a case that was referred to the Division by HUD. The complaint, which was filed on December 2, 2013, alleged that the owners of a 96-unit residential rental property in Racine, Wisconsin violated the Fair Housing Act on the basis of disability by refusing to rent an apartment to a woman who used an assistance dog. The consent decree requires the defendants to adopt a new assistance animal policy, attend fair housing training and pay $8,500 to the HUD complainants.
  • On December 30, 2013, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Edwards (D. N.H.), a Fair Housing Act case that was referred to the Division by HUD. The complaint, filed on December 16, 2013, alleges that the defendant discriminated on the basis of familial status by enforcing a policy that prohibited children in rental housing and by conditioning a tenant's continued residence on his finding alternate accommodations for his daughter. The consent order contains injunctive relief and requires the defendant to pay $5,385.50 in damages to the complainant and a $250 civil penalty to the United States.
  • On December 12, 2013, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. 61 Main Street Corp. (S.D.N.Y). The complaint, filed on December 2, 2013, alleges discrimination based on race or color. The consent decree includes injunctive relief and payments by the defendants of $60,000 into a settlement fund to compensate aggrieved persons and $32,000 to the United States in civil penalties.
  • On November 25, 2013, the United States Attorney's Office filed a Fair Housing Act complaint in United States v. Greenbrier Village Homeowner's Ass'n (D. Minn.), alleging that the owners and managers of a condominium complex in Minnetonka, Minnesota enacted unreasonable and discriminatory rules applicable to families with children.
  • On October 25, 2013, the Division filed a Fair Housing Act complaint in United States v. Martin Family Trust (N.D. Cal.) alleging that the owner, manager, and staff of Woodland Garden Apartments discriminated against five complainant 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 October 3, 2013, the Division filed a Fair Housing Act complaint in United States v. Toone (E.D. Tex.), alleging that the owners of an RV park discriminated on the basis of sex against a transgender RV resident and her roommate.
  • On September 30, 2013, the Division filed a Fair Housing Act complaint in United States v. Housing Authority of the City of Ruston (W.D. La), alleging that the Housing Authority has engaged in a pattern or practice of racial discrimination in the placement of new residents in its public housing complexes and in the granting of transfers to residents of the authority's properties. The complaint alleges that the result of these discriminatory policies has been the preservation of the original de jure segregation in effect when the authority began operating in the 1950s.
  • On September 30, 2013, the Division filed a complaint in United States v. Zaremba Management Co. (N.D. Ohio), alleging 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 September 9, 2013, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Wilson (W.D. Ky.). The complaint, filed on August 27, 2013, alleges that defendants violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against African-American apartment seekers and making statements indicating a preference for families without children for certain available apartments. This matter was developed by the Division's Fair Housing Testing Program. The consent decree contains civil penalties of $22,000.
  • On August 15, 2013, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Highland Management Group, Inc. (D. Minn.). The complaint, filed on August 13, 2013, alleged that defendants discriminated against Somalis in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Evidence developed by the Division's Fair Housing Testing Program showed that Somali testers were told to make appointments to see apartments, whereas white testers were shown apartments when they walked in. The consent decree contains injunctive relief and civil penalties of $30,000.
  • On August 15, 2013, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Townhomes of Kings Lake HOA, Inc. (M.D. Fla.). The complaint, filed on October 9, 2012, alleged that the homeowners association and property manager of a 249-townhome community in Gibsonton, Florida discriminated against families with children, in violation of the Fair Housing Act, by maintaining and enforcing an unlawful occupancy limit policy. The consent decree provides for $45,000 in damages to the named aggrieved persons, $85,000 for a settlement fund, $20,000 in civil penalties, and standard injunctive relief.
  • On August 1, 2013, the court issued a final judgment in United States v. Hylton (D. Conn.), a Fair Housing Act race discrimination case that was tried to the court on March 27 and 28, 2013. The complaint, which was filed on October 7, 2011, alleged that the Hyltons, a black married couple, violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to allow a mixed-race couple to sublet their unit to a black woman with children, because they did not want "too many blacks" at the property. On May 1, 2013, the court issued a ruling ordering that a judgment of $31,750 be entered in favor of Jermaine and Taika Bilbo ($1,750 for the loss of their security deposit, $15,000 for emotional distress and $15,000 in punitive damages) and that a judgment of $44,341.05 be entered in favor of DeMechia Wilson ($4,341.05 in economic damages, $20,000 for lost housing opportunity and $20,000 in punitive damages). On July 26, 2013, the court issued an order for injunctive relief containing a general injunction, fair housing poster and logo requirements, the requirement to adopt and implement a nondiscrimination policy, mandatory fair housing training and reporting and recordkeeping requirements for three years. This case is on appeal.
  • On June 27, 2013, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Lawrence Properties (M.D. Ala.). The complaint, filed on September 7, 2012, alleged that defendants violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent a lot at a mobile home park to an African American woman and her family. The complaint also included a pattern or practice allegation based on three former employees' statements that the defendant owner stated that he did not want to rent to African Americans. The consent order provides for $25,000 in damages for the HUD complainants, a $10,000 civil penalty and injunctive relief.
  • On June 24, 2013, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Altoona Housing Authority (W.D. Pa). The complaint, filed on December 14, 2012, alleged that the housing authority evicted an African-American tenant with less due process than was given to white tenants with similar or more severe lease violations. The consent order requires the housing authority to implement a complaint policy, attend fair housing training, pay $35,000 to the HUD complainant and provide the HUD complainant a housing choice voucher that is immediately portable outside the jurisdiction of the housing authority.
  • Insurance Discrimination:

  • On April 30, 2012, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation (MGIC) (W.D. Pa.). The complaint, filed on July 5, 2011, alleged that MGIC violated the Fair Housing Act by requiring women on maternity leave to physically return to work before approving their applications for mortgage insurance. The settlement creates a $511,250 fund to compensate victims, including $42,500 for the HUD complainant and $468,750 to 69 additional aggrieved persons identified through the Division's review of applications MGIC underwrote between July 2007 and September 2010, and a $38,750 civil penalty to the United States. It also sets out detailed provisions that MGIC must follow in underwriting future applications involving paid or unpaid maternity or paternity leave.
  • Sexual Harassment:

  • On September 30, 2013, the Division filed a complaint in United States v. VanderVennen (W.D. Mich.), alleging 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 June 2, 2014, the United States Attorney's Office filed a proposed consent order in United States v. Gulf Shores Apts(S.D. Ala.). The consent order, which still must be approved by the court, 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 January 17, 2014, the United States Attorney's Office amended its previously filed complaint in United States v. East River Housing Corp. (S.D.N.Y.) to allege two additional instances of disability discrimination against residents using assistance animals and to add a pattern or practice claim.
  • On January 8, 2014, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Allegro Apartments (E.D. Wis.). The complaint, which was filed on December 2, 2013, alleged that the owners of a 96-unit residential rental property in Racine, Wisconsin violated the Fair Housing Act on the basis of disability by refusing to rent an apartment to a woman who used an assistance dog. The consent decree requires the defendants to adopt a new assistance animal policy, attend fair housing training and pay $8,500 to the woman and her husband.
  • On December 12, 2013, the court adopted the positions argued in the United States Attorney's Office statement of interest in denying the motion to dismiss in DeFiore v. City Rescue Mission (W.D. Pa). The statement of interest argued that: (1) the homeless shelter run by the City Rescue Mission of New Castle, Pennsylvania is a "dwelling" under the Fair Housing Act (FHA); (2) Sections 3604(f)(1) and (f)(2) of the FHA are not limited to traditional sales and leases; (3) the FHA's religious exemption does not apply to disability discrimination; (4) defendants cannot prove at the pleading stage that the shelter meets the FHA's or ADA's standard for a religious exemption; (5) Mr. DeFiore did not need to present himself in person to prove that he was blind and needed a guide dog; and (6) defendants cannot show undue burden on the pleadings. On June 28, 2013, the United States Attorney's Office filed an Fair Housing Act/Americans with Disabilities Act complaint in the related case of United States v. City Rescue Mission (W.D. Pa), alleging that the defendants discriminated on the basis of disability by refusing to allow Kenneth DeFiore to stay in the shelter with his guide dog.
  • On November 25, 2013, the Division filed a Fair Housing Act complaint in United States v. LCW Family Limited Partnership (D. Neb.), alleging discrimination against people who use assistance animals by an apartment complex outside Omaha, Nebraska.
  • On November 18, 2013, the United States Attorney's Office filed a Fair Housing Act complaint in United States v. Trinity Villas, Inc. (M.D. Fla.), alleging that a 162-unit Section 8 project-based housing complex in Ocala, Florida refused to grant the request of a tenant with a mobility impairment to transfer from a second-floor unit to a first-floor unit as a reasonable accommodation.
  • On November 18, 2013, the Division filed a Fair Housing Act complaint in United States v. Wren (N.D. Ill.), alleging that the owner and property manager of a two-unit building in the Chicago area discriminated on the bases of disability and familial status.
  • On November 15, 2013, the United States Attorney's Office filed a Fair Housing Act complaint in United States v. Schimnich (D. Minn.), alleging that the owner/manager of a three-unit residential rental property St. Cloud, Minnesota refused to rent an apartment to a woman who used an assistance animal.
  • On October 28, 2013, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Rosewood Park Apartments (D. Nev.), a Fair Housing case alleging that the owners and operators of the largest apartment complex in Reno, Nevada denied housing to persons with disabilities who use assistance animals. Under the agreement, defendants will pay $127,500 to a family that was prevented from moving into the complex and a non-profit Nevada organization that assisted the family and conducted testing to investigate the rental practices at Rosewood Park. The defendants will also pay an additional $25,000 to compensate yet to be identified victims and $15,000 in civil penalties.
  • On July 1, 2013, the Division filed a complaint in United States v. Barber (W.D. Wash.), alleging that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act by unlawfully denying a reasonable accommodation request by a tenant with a mental disability to waive a $1,000 "pet deposit" for her 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 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.
  • On March 17, 2014, the United States Attorney's Office filed a complaint in United States v. Related Companies (S.D.N.Y.) against the designers and developers of One Carnegie Hill Apartments and Tribeca Green Apartments 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 these properties to be accessible to persons with disabilities.
  • On February 24, 2014, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Bryan Co. (S.D. Miss.), a case alleging Fair Housing Act ("FHA") accessibility violations at nine multifamily complexes in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee, and Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") violations at eight of those nine properties. A partial consent order entered on May 15, 2013 resolved all of the United States' claims against the design professional defendants and required the defendants to pay $865,000 for a retrofit fund and $60,000 to compensate victims. Under the more recent consent order, the builder, developer, and original owner are required to retrofit all nine properties to bring them into compliance with the FHA and, where applicable, the ADA.
  • On December 18, 2013, the Division filed a complaint and proposed consent order in United States v. Pauley (S.D. W.V.). The complaint 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 order, which still must be approved by the court, 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 December 2, 2013, the Division filed a complaint in United States v. Noble Homes, Inc. (N.D. Ohio), alleging that the defendants discriminated on the basis of disability by designing and constructing the Windham Bridge condominium property in Hartsville, Ohio without the accessibility features required by the Fair Housing Act.
  • On September 12, 2013, the Division filed a complaint in United States v. Nistler (D. Mont.), alleging that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act when they designed and constructed an eight unit apartment building in Missoula, Montana without the accessibility features required by the Act.
  • On August 20, 2013, the court entered a final consent order with the engineering defendant in United States v. Montagne Development, Inc. (D. Or.), a Fair Housing Act design and construction case. Under the consent order, Multi/Tech will pay $32,000 to a victim's fund, $21,000 to a retrofit fund and almost $8,000 to Fair Housing Council of Oregon, which filed the original HUD complaint and intervened in the lawsuit. On May 9, 2013, the court entered a consent order resolving the United States' claims against the developer/owner defendants. That consent order required retrofits to covered apartment interiors and to the development's public and common use areas. The defendants also were required to pay $48,000 to the Fair Housing Council of Oregon and $32,000 to establish a settlement fund to compensate aggrieved persons.
  • On June 11, 2013, the court entered a onsent order resolving United States v. John Buck Co. (S.D.N.Y.), requiring the defendants to retrofit inaccessible features at River East, a 196-unit apartment building in Manhattan, to pay a combined civil penalty of $72,000, and to dedicate $125,000 to compensate individuals who may have been harmed by the inadequate accessibility. The complaint, which was filed by the United States Attorney's Office on April 23, 2013, alleged that the developers and architects of River East failed to comply with the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act.
  • Discriminatory Land Use and Zoning Practices

  • On April 17, 2014, the court entered a settlement agreement with the City of New Orleans in United States v. City of New Orleans (E.D. La.). This suit under the Fair Housing Act and Title II of the ADA alleges that the City of New Orleans and the Louisiana State Bond Commission blocked, on account of the disabilities of the prospective residents, the conversion of a former nursing home into a housing complex that would include twenty units of permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless persons with disabilities. The settlement agreement does not resolve the United States' claims against the Louisiana State Bond Commission.
  • 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.
  • On November 12, 2013, the court entered a consent decree in Joliet v. New West (N.D. Ill.) and United States v. Joliet (N.D. Ill.). These cases, a condemnation action against Evergreen Terrace, a HUD-subsidized affordable housing complex, and an affirmative lawsuit against Joliet, involve allegations that the City's effort to condemn Evergreen Terrace is discriminatory on the basis of race in violation of the Fair Housing Act and the Community Development Act of 1974. The consent decree preserves affordable housing for low-income residents by placing limitations on redevelopment by Joliet should the City acquire the property through condemnation or otherwise.
  • On August 13, 2013, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. City of St. Peters (W.D. Mo.) under the Fair Housing Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The complaint alleges that the city violated the FHA and ADA through its enactment and enforcement of a 2,500 foot spacing requirement and its application of the spacing requirement against a proposed group home for four women with developmental disabilities. The consent decree includes a payment of $80,000 to four aggrieved persons and an agreement by the City to amend its spacing requirement ordinance.
  • On May 10, 2013, the court entered a settlement agreement in United States v. St. Bernard Parish (E.D. La.), a Fair Housing Act pattern or practice case in which the United States alleged that St. Bernard Parish enacted a series of racially discriminatory zoning ordinances following Hurricane Katrina. Under the settlement, the Parish is required to pay a civil penalty of $15,000, pay $275,000 in damages to aggrieved persons, establish an Office of Fair Housing and contribute at least $83,000 worth of land, per year for the next five years, to develop affordable rental housing in the Parish.
  • 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 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 May 13, 2014, the Division filed a complaint and proposed consent order in United States v. Sallie Mae, Inc. (D. Del.). The complaint alleges that three separate owners or servicers of private and federally guaranteed student loans (collectively "Sallie Mae") violated Section 527 of 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 approximately 60,000 servicemembers. The complaint also alleges that Sallie Mae violated Section 521 of the SCRA by obtaining improper default judgments against SCRA-protected servicemembers. The consent order, which still must be approved by the court, 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.
  • On April 4, 2013, the Department announced that under its 2011 settlements with BAC Home Loans Servicing LP, a subsidiary of Bank of America Corporation, and Saxon Mortgage Servicing Inc., a subsidiary of Morgan Stanley, 316 servicemembers whose homes were unlawfully foreclosed upon between 2006 and 2010 are due to receive over $39 million in monetary relief for alleged violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Under the first settlement, Bank of America is required to pay over $36.8 million to 297 servicemembers whose homes were unlawfully foreclosed upon between 2006 and 2010. Each servicemember will receive a minimum of $116,785, plus compensation for any equity lost with interest. Borrowers receiving payment under this settlement may receive an additional payment under a settlement between Bank of America and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System if the foreclosure occurred in 2009 or 2010. Payments provided under the federal banking regulators' settlement will bring the total amount received by eligible borrowers to $125,000 plus equity, where applicable. Under the second settlement, Saxon Mortgage Services Inc. has paid out over $2.5 million to 19 servicemembers whose homes were unlawfully foreclosed upon between 2006 and 2010. Each servicemember will receive a minimum of $130,555, plus compensation for any equity lost with interest.
  • 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.
  • On April 4, 2012, the court entered the five proposed consent orders in United States v. Bank of America Corp., Citibank, NA, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Ally Financial, Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. (D.D.C.). Under the consent orders, the nation's five largest mortgage loan servicers will conduct reviews to determine whether any servicemembers have been foreclosed on either judicially or non-judicially in violation of the SCRA since 2006, and whether servicemembers have been unlawfully charged interest in excess of six percent on their mortgages since 2008. As a result of these settlements, when combined with the Division's settlements with Bank of America and Saxon covering non-judicial foreclosures filed in 2011, the vast majority of all foreclosures against servicemembers will be subject to court-ordered review. Foreclosure victims identified through these reviews will be 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 an 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. The financial compensation to servicemembers is in addition to the $25 billion settlement. 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 will also repair any negative credit report entries related to the allegedly wrongful foreclosures and will not pursue any remaining amounts owed under the mortgages.
  • 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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