The Justice Department today announced an agreement with the owners and operators of Woodland Garden Apartments in Fremont, California, to settle allegations of discrimination against families with children. Under the consent order, which must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the defendants are required to pay $77,500 to the victims of their discrimination and an additional $2,500 to the government as a civil penalty. The settlement resolves a complaint filed by the department on Oct. 25, 2013.
The lawsuit alleged that the apartment complex maintained rules that discriminated against families with children in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Specifically, the lawsuit challenged a rule that prohibited children from playing outside in the common grassy areas of the complex and provided that families would be evicted if they violated this rule. The lawsuit also alleged that the actions of the defendants constituted a pattern or practice of discrimination.
The lawsuit arose as a result of complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by five families who lived at Woodland Garden Apartments and by Project Sentinel, a fair housing organization operating in Northern California. After an investigation of the complaints, HUD issued a charge of discrimination and the complainants were referred to the department.
“Federal law guarantees families with children the right to equal access to housing, including full access to their homes’ amenities and facilities,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division. “Settlements such as this one help ensure that all families can enjoy that right.”
“An apartment complex may not impose conditions on families with children that they do not impose on other residents,” said HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Gustavo Velasquez . “HUD and DOJ remain committed to enforcing fair housing laws that ensure all people share the same rights to use and enjoy their homes.”
In addition to monetary payments, the consent order requires defendants to implement a nondiscrimination policy, establish new enforcement procedures for rule violations and undergo training on the Fair Housing Act.
Fighting illegal housing discrimination is a top priority of the 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 the division's website . 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 the department website or the HUD website