WASHINGTON - The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the owners of Yorkshire Apartments, Thackeray Ledges and Wales Ridge Apartments in Massillon, Ohio, for discriminating on the basis of race and familial status when renting their apartments in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
“No one should be denied housing nor treated differently because of their race when they are trying to find a home for their family,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will vigorously enforce the nation’s civil rights laws to combat housing discrimination.”
“Few things are more fundamental to success and happiness than where we choose to live. Fair and equal access to housing is a cornerstone of our society,” said Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “Apartment owners and managers must treat all tenants, and potential tenants, in a fair and equitable manner without regard to race, national origin or whether they have children. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will actively pursue these cases with the goal of fairness and equity for all.”
The complaint, filed late yesterday, alleges that the defendants and their agents have denied apartments to African-American prospective tenants, misrepresented the availability of units to African-American prospective tenants, and have treated similarly situated African-American and white tenants and prospective tenants differently at three apartment complexes, which are owned and managed by John Ruth doing business as Penson Properties. The complaint also alleges that the defendants have discriminated against families with children, including denying families with children the opportunity to rent upper-level apartments and restricting families with children to basement-level apartments.
The United States’ complaint seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination by the defendants, and requesting both monetary damages for those harmed by the defendants’ actions, and a civil penalty.
Several former property managers and tenants previously complained to the Stark County, Ohio, Fair Housing Department that they had been discriminated against by the defendants, and their complaints were referred to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) for investigation. Following OCRC’s investigation, OCRC, several individual tenants and former property managers, as well as Stark County filed suit against the defendants. That lawsuit is currently pending in the Northern District of Ohio before the U.S. Judge John R. Adams.
Fighting illegal discrimination in housing is a top priority of the Justice Department. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt. Individuals who believe that they have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777.
The complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct. The allegations must still be proven in federal court.