WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against the owner and manager of Royal Arms Apartments, a 26-unit apartment building in Ravenna, Ohio, for violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminating on the basis of familial status in the rental of apartments.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, names as defendants Testa Family Enterprises Ltd. LLC, the owner of Royal Arms Apartments, and its manager Christine Testa. The suit alleges that the defendants refused to rent the above-ground-level units at Royal Arms to families with young children.
“Equal access to housing in the United States is a fundamental right, and this nation will not tolerate discrimination in housing,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez. “The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of Fair Housing laws along with its partners at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).”
“Few things are more fundamental to success and happiness than having a safe place to live. Fair and equal access to housing is a cornerstone of our society,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steven M. Dettelbach. “Apartment owners must ensure that their managers 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.”
As alleged in the complaint, the defendants refused to show an apartment to a mother of a four-year-old child and a 10-month-old child. The individual complained to the Fair Housing Advocates Association (FHAA) in Akron, Ohio, which conducted testing at Royal Arms that corroborated the complaint. The individual and the FHAA filed complaints with HUD. After an investigation, the Secretary of HUD determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that discriminatory housing practices had occurred and issued a charge of discrimination. The FHAA elected to have the matters asserted in the HUD charge heard in federal court.
“Housing discrimination is illegal and unacceptable,” said HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity John Trasviña. “HUD and the Justice Department work vigorously to eliminate this form of discrimination.”
The suit seeks monetary damages for those harmed by the defendants’ actions, civil penalties and a court order barring future discrimination.
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.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.