WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against the owners and managers of 23 rental homes in Magee, Miss., for violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against families with children.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, charges that Marcus Manly Magee III, Ina Magee and M.M. and S. Inc. engaged in a pattern or practice of violating the Fair Housing Act or denied rights protected by the act by establishing and implementing occupancy standards limiting the number of children in the rental homes owned and/or leased by the defendants. The suit also charges that, by refusing to rent a three-bedroom home to a woman with four children because she had too many children under their occupancy guidelines, the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act.
“The Fair Housing Act ensures that families cannot be denied housing based on policies that discriminate against children,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of fair housing laws that protect the rights of families with children so that families will have full opportunity to find housing as the law requires.”
This lawsuit arose as a result of a complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by a woman with four daughters who was searching for a three-bedroom rental home in Magee. The woman’s search led her to M.M. and S. Inc., which leases a number of houses in the area. However, when she contacted M.M. and S. Inc. and spoke with Marcus and Ina Magee, they told her that she had too many children to rent a three-bedroom home. While the defendants’ occupancy policy allowed five individuals to occupy the house, it permitted no more than three of the occupants to be children. The defendants established similar limitations on the number of children that could live in their two- and four-bedroom rental homes. After HUD investigated the complaint, it issued a charge of discrimination and the matter was referred to the Justice Department.
“For over twenty years, the Fair Housing Act has made it unlawful to discriminate against families with children, and that includes occupancy standards that unfairly limit the number of children who can reside in a dwelling,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD and the Department of Justice will continue to enforce fair housing laws that protect the rights of families with children."
The lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination by the defendants, monetary damages for those harmed by the defendants’ actions, and a civil penalty. Any individuals who have information relevant to this case are urged to contact the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section of the Civil Rights Division at 1-800-896-7743, ext. 92.
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.usdoj.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.