The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against the owner and operators of a Fremont, Calif., apartment complex, alleging that they had discriminated against families with children in violation of the Fair Housing Act by prohibiting children from playing in the common grassy areas of the complex.
“Families with children should have the same ability to enjoy their homes as all other tenants,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that the owners and rental staff of Woodland Garden Apartments, a 37 unit apartment complex, adopted and enforced a policy prohibiting children from playing outside in the common grassy areas of the complex. The complex is owned by Fred Martin and managed by Fatima Rivera, both of whom are named in the suit. Alfredo Rivera, a former maintenance worker who participated in enforcing the policy, is also named as a defendant in the suit.
This lawsuit arose as a result of complaints filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by five families with children who lived at Woodland Garden Apartments, and Project Sentinel, a non-profit organization based in Santa Clara, Calif., that promotes fair housing. After HUD investigated the complaints, it issued a charge of discrimination and the matter was referred to the Justice Department.
“Housing providers cannot impose more restrictive policies on families with children or evict them simply because their children leave the unit,” said Bryan Greene, HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD and DOJ are committed to enforcing the fair housing rights of all people, including families with children.”
The lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination by the defendant, monetary damages for those harmed by the defendant’s actions and a civil penalty.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. Individuals who believe they may have been victims of housing discrimination may contact the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org ., or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 or through www.hud.gov/fairhousing .
The complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct. The allegations must still be proven in federal court.