The Justice Department announced today that Lawrence Properties Inc., Lawrence at Lakewood LLC, Michael Lawrence, and Williams Bounds have agreed to pay $35,000 to settle a lawsuit involving violations of the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants denied housing to an African American woman and her family because of race. The lawsuit also alleged that the owner and the regional manager of Lawrence Properties communicated to employees a company policy of not renting to African Americans.
Under the consent order, which was approved today by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, the defendants will pay $25,000 to the family who was denied housing and $10,000 to the United States as a civil penalty. In addition, the order prohibits the defendants from discriminating in the future against prospective tenants based on race, mandates the implementation of a non-discriminatory rental policy, and requires the defendants and their employees to receive training on the Fair Housing Act.
“No family should be denied housing because of their race,” said Eric Halperin, Senior Counsel and Special Counsel for Fair Lending in the Civil Rights Division. “We are committed to enforcing the Fair Housing Act to ensure that everyone has the freedom to choose where they live.”
“Housing is a need that everyone shares,” stated George L. Beck Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. “To deny someone their choice of housing based on discrimination should not and will not be tolerated.”
The lawsuit, filed in September 2012, arose as a result of a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). After HUD investigated the complaint, it issued a charge of discrimination and the matter was referred to the Justice Department. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent a lot at a mobile home park to the HUD complainant and her family due to a discriminatory policy against renting to African Americans. The suit also alleged that, as a result of the discriminatory policy, the defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination or denied rights protected by the Fair Housing Act to a group of persons.
“No residential community can maintain an exclusion based on race,” said Bryan Greene, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD and the Justice Department are committed to taking action anytime a family is subjected to unlawful discrimination.”
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 email@example.com , or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777.