Department of Justice Seal



MONDAY, JULY 31, 2000

(202) 514-2007


TDD (202) 514-1888



WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A Milwaukee apartment management company that allegedly told whites, but not African Americans, about the availability of apartments, will pay $60,000 in damages and civil penalties, under an agreement reached with the Justice Department. It was also alleged that the company discriminated against families with children.

In a complaint, filed today in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee, the Justice Department alleged that Wellston Corporation d.b.a. Wellston Properties, and two of its apartment managers, violated the federal Fair Housing Act by engaging in a pattern of discrimination against African Americans, and families with children. The agreement, which was also submitted today, is pending the approval of the court.

It is the first case filed in Wisconsin resulting from the Justice Department's nationwide fair housing testing program. Under the program, trained pairs of black and white testers with similar credentials pose as prospective tenants and inquire about available units. By comparing the experiences of the testers, investigators are able to determine whether minorities are treated less favorably than whites. "Today's action furthers our efforts to eradicate housing discrimination wherever we find it throughout the country," said Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "We will continue to aggressively enforce the law to make the dream of home ownership a reality for everyone."

"The case again illustrates that the Department of Justice plays an important role in insuring that the rental of properties in this district is done fairly and without discrimination," said Thomas P. Schneider, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

In the Wisconsin investigation, the Justice Department conducted the testing along with a local fair housing organization, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Counsel. According to the complaint, the investigation revealed that the defendants failed to tell black testers about apartments that were or would be available at the Tripoli or the Brixen apartments, while providing white testers with information on available apartments. The investigation also allegedly revealed that the defendants provided white testers with more favorable terms of rental at the Tripoli apartments than those they provided to black testers.

In addition, the investigation revealed that Wellston violated federal law by only letting families with children rent first floor apartments; by representing to persons inquiring about apartments that families with children were not permitted to occupy apartments above the first floor; by discouraging persons with children from renting at the Brixen apartments while encouraging persons without children to rent there; and by failing to provide the same information about the availability of apartments to persons with children as that which they provided to persons without children. Under federal law, it is unlawful to discriminate against families with children.

The agreement, which has been signed by the parties, requires Wellston to pay $50,000 to victims of the discrimination. If any portion of this fund is not distributed, the balance will be contributed to local organizations involved in community housing efforts including fair housing. Wellston will also pay a $10,000 civil penalty to the United States.

Wellston also will train its employees about various aspects of the fair housing laws, and market its apartments so as to assure that they will be made available and rented to people on a nondiscriminatory basis.

This is the Justice Department's 63rd case stemming from its nationwide fair housing testing. Previously, 61 cases under this program have been resolved, resulting in the recovery of over $8.7 million in damages.