WASHINGTON — Atlanta real estate firms Coldwell Banker Joe T. Lane Realty Inc., Coldwell Banker Bullard Realty Company Inc. and Rodney Lee Foreman, one of their former real estate agents, have agreed to pay $160,000 to settle allegations that they illegally steered prospective homebuyers toward and away from certain neighborhoods based on race and color, the Justice Department announced today.
The agreement, subject to approval by a federal court in Atlanta, resolves the Justice Department’s Jan. 25, 2009, lawsuit which originated from a complaint filed by the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Testing conducted by NFHA of Coldwell Banker Joe T. Lane Realty Inc. in 2003 and 2004 revealed that Foreman had steered white testers towards areas that are predominately white and away from areas that are predominately African-American because of race or color, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
According to the complaint, before showing the tester any homes, Foreman told the tester that he did not know where to take the tester because he could not tell from talking on the telephone whether the tester was white. Foreman said words to the effect that "I didn’t know if you were a Caucasian or not over the phone." After an investigation, HUD found reasonable cause to believe that unlawful discrimination had occurred and referred the matter to the Justice Department.
"People have the right to make fully informed housing choices. Unlawful steering by real estate agents frustrates this right and perpetuates segregated communities," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The work undertaken by NFHA and HUD is critical to our efforts to eliminate such discrimination. Real estate agents nationwide should take note that the Department of Justice works vigilantly to combat this type of discrimination."
"This case demonstrates that racial steering is not a relic of the past. Effective civil rights law enforcement, including testing, can and must put an end to housing discrimination," said John Trasviña, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
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, national origin and disability.
More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at http://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 email@example.com, or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777. More information about the Fair Housing Act can also be found at http://www.justice.gov/crt/housing/fairhousing/ or www.hud.gov/fairhousing.