FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 1999
TDD (202) 514-1888
LOUISIANA APARTMENT BROKER TO SETTLE ALLEGATIONS OF DISCRIMINATION,
UNDER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT AGREEMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A Louisiana apartment broker company will not discriminate against African Americans and families with children, under an agreement reached today with the Justice Department.
Today's agreement, filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, settles allegations that Apartment and Home Hunters, Inc.(AHH), based in Metairie, Louisiana, and other defendants violated the federal Fair Housing Act by engaging in a pattern of discrimination against African Americans and families with children. The agreement requires the defendants to pay $180,000 in damages, including $50,000 for a fund to compensate victims that are identified through advertising.
The agreement resolves three consolidated cases that alleged AHH honored instructions by area landlords who asked AHH not to inform minorities about the availability of properties listed with AHH. In addition to naming AHH, the suits also included two landlords, Vincent Paciera, Sr. and Charles Spitzfaden, III.
The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, Inc. (FHAC), a private, nonprofit fair housing group, and a tenant who claimed wrongful eviction based on race, both filed separate suits.
"The Justice Department continues to detect and deter housing discrimination around the country," said Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Bill Lann Lee. "Today's settlement shows housing providers everywhere that the Justice Department won't tolerate housing discrimination, either by landlords or broker services acting on their behalf."
The complaint alleges that AHH steered African-Americans away from privately owned rental units and toward large, corporate-owned apartment complexes. AHH also allegedly used restrictions against children, including the number and age of children, allowed at certain units. Since 1989, the Fair Housing Act has prohibited such discrimination against families with children.
Under the terms of the agreement, the defendants will:
- establish a $50,000 fund to compensate victims of discrimination who will be identified through public notices and advertising;
- advertise housing and housing services targeting the minority community;
- train agents about their responsibilities under federal fair housing laws;
- conduct fair housing testing to ensure that discrimination has not resumed;
- institute an occupancy limit no more restrictive than two persons per bedroom;
- provide records and information so the Justice Department can monitor compliance;
- pay $30,000 in damages to the tenant who alleged wrongful eviction because of race, and $90,000 in damages to FHAC; and, pay $10,000 in civil penalties to the United States.
"Everyone deserves an equal shot at finding suitable housing, regardless of their color or whether they have children," said Eddie J. Jordan, Jr., U.S. Attorney in New Orleans. "Housing providers in the New Orleans area are on notice: violate this principle, and you'll pay the price."
The suits were based, in part, on evidence developed by a nationwide fair housing testing program conducted by the Department, as well as testing conducted by FHAC. Through the testing, matched pairs of trained black and white persons posed as prospective tenants seeking assistance from AHH. The testing revealed instances in which the pairs were treated differently.
Nationwide, the Justice Department has filed 54 cases as a result of its testing program, yielding more than $7.5 million in damages along with broad-ranging agreements ensuring similar conduct does not occur in the future.
Individuals who believe they may have been the victims of housing discrimination by these defendants should call the Housing Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, the United States Attorney's Office at 504-680-3000, or the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center at 504-596-2100.