The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a Fair Housing Act lawsuit against the owners and manager of approximately two dozen rental homes in Washington, N,C., alleging that the manager, William I. Cochran III, discriminated against African-American tenants.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, names Cochran and three related corporate entities – EKP LLC, WRC LLC and Emlan Properties LLC – that own or owned the various properties managed by Cochran. The complaint alleges that Cochran delayed or refused to perform maintenance or repairs at properties rented by African-Americans and refused to credit them for repairs they paid for or made themselves; verbally harassed African-American tenants with racial slurs and epithets, having made statements indicating that he disfavored African-American tenants; and threatened, harassed and retaliated against African-American tenants who resisted his discriminatory housing practices.
“No American should be subjected to substandard housing conditions because of his or her race,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of fair housing laws that protect the rights of individuals who seek basic maintenance and repairs to be free from discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.”
“Racial discrimination will not be tolerated in North Carolina,” said Thomas G. Walker, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District in North Carolina. “When we have evidence demonstrating that federal law has been broken, we will take action against the violators.”
The case began when a former tenant at one of Cochran’s properties contacted the Justice Department to report Cochran’s conduct. The department conducted an extensive investigation and then filed today’s lawsuit, which seeks an order prohibiting the defendants from engaging in future unlawful discrimination, and requiring the defendants to pay monetary damages to victims of their discrimination and civil penalties to the government.
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.justice.gov/crt . Individuals who believe that they have been victims of housing discrimination or have information related to this lawsuit can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.