WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that a Munster, Ind., condominium association and its three member board of directors have agreed to pay $120,000 to resolve allegations that they refused to approve the sale of a condominium to an African-American couple because of their race and because they had children. The settlement must still be approved by U.S. Senior District Judge Philip P. Simon.
“Our nation will not tolerate someone being denied the right to purchase a home because of their race or because they have children”, said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “This settlement should serve as a message to condominium boards and other housing providers that they must comply with the Fair Housing Act, and that the Justice Department will take aggressive action when they do not.”
“Denying a family the opportunity to buy a home because of their race or because they have children is illegal and unacceptable,” said Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity John Trasvina. “HUD and the Justice Department are committed to vigorously working to eliminate housing discrimination whenever and wherever we find it.”
The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department on July 14, 2008, against the Autumn Ridge Condominium Association and the three members of its Board of Directors, Richard Archie, Ronald Patterson and James Reed. The United States alleged that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act when, in 2006, they refused to approve the sale of a condominium at Autumn Ridge to an African-American man who intended to reside there with his fiancé, who is also African-American, and her two mino r children. The United States alleged that the defendants refused to approve the sale because the couple was African-American and because they had children. The condominium rules for Autumn Ridge then in effect prohibited the sale of a unit to persons with minor children. The couple, the owner who had attempted to sell them the condominium and the four real estate agents involved in the transaction filed complaints with the HUD. After an investigation, HUD determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that the defendants had violated the Fair Housing Act and referred the matter to the Justice Department.
The settlement requires the defendants to pay $106,500 to the couple and the real estate agents, and to pay $13,500 in civil penalties to the United States. The settlement also requires Autumn Ridge to revise its rules to remove any restriction on occupancy by families with children, requires Autumn Ridge to obtain training in the Fair Housing Act for its board members and requires the president of the Board of Directors for Autumn Ridge, Richard Archie, to resign permanently from the board.
Fighting illegal housing discrimination 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 (having one or more children under 18), national origin and disability.
More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt/. Persons who believe they have experienced or witnessed unlawful housing discrimination may 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. More information about the Fair Housing Act can also be found at www.justice.gov/crt/housing or www.hud.gov/fairhousing.