United States v. Southwind Village, LLC (M.D. Fla.) Complaint
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ) Civil Action No.
SOUTHWIND VILLAGE, LLC, )
and CARL BRUCKLER, )
The United States of America alleges as follows:
NATURE OF ACTION
1. This action is brought by the United States to enforce Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619 (the Fair Housing Act).
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
2. This Court has jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1345, and 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a).
3. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b), because (1) all Defendants reside in the Middle District of Florida; and (2) the claims alleged herein arose in the Middle District of Florida.
4. Plaintiff is the United States of America.
5. Defendant Southwind Village, LLC is the owner of Southwind Village Mobile Home Park (“Southwind”).
6. Defendant Southwind Village, LLC, was formed in April 2007 and has its principal place of business at 1269 River Road in North Fort Meyers, Florida.
7. Defendant Carl Bruckler is a resident of North Fort Myers, Florida.
8. Defendant Carl Bruckler serves as the property manager at Southwind. As the property manager, his duties include providing information on available recreational vehicle lots to prospective renters, taking prospective renters to view the mobile home park and available lots, and securing renters for Southwind.
9. Defendant Southwind Village, LLC has authority to control the actions of its agent Defendant Carl Bruckler.
10. Southwind is a mobile home and recreational vehicle community with approximately 70 mobile home and recreational vehicle lots located at 1269 River Road in North Fort Meyers, Florida.
11. Individuals with recreational vehicles may rent a lot at Southwind, locate their recreational vehicle on that lot, and reside there.
12. Recreational vehicle lots at Southwind are typically rented on a monthly basis.
13. Some recreational vehicle owners at Southwind reside there full-time; others live at Southwind on a seasonal basis. Some recreational vehicle owners return on an annual basis.
14. Recreational vehicle owners at Southwind engage in activities of daily living in their recreational vehicles, such as sleeping, cooking, cleaning, and socializing. They typically return to their vehicles on a daily basis while at Southwind.
15. Recreational vehicle owners at Southwind have access to their own mailbox and address, and are billed directly for certain utilities.
16. Southwind provides recreational vehicle owners with water, electricity, sewage removal, lawn care, and garbage collection services while they are residing at the mobile home park.
17. The recreational vehicle lots at Southwind, and the recreational vehicles located thereon, are dwellings within the meaning of Section 802(b) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).
18. Between September and November 2014, the United States conducted testing to evaluate Defendants’ compliance with the Fair Housing Act. Testing is a simulation of a housing transaction that compares responses given by housing providers to different types of home-seekers to determine whether illegal discrimination is occurring.
19. The testing revealed that Defendants treat African-Americans who visit Southwind and inquire about renting a recreational vehicle lot differently and less favorably than similarly-situated white persons who visit Southwind for that purpose. Specifically, during the testing Defendant Carl Bruckler falsely told African-Americans that no recreational vehicle lots were immediately available for rent, but told similarly-situated white persons that recreational vehicle lots were immediately available for rent.
20. The testing further revealed that while Defendant Carl Bruckler encouraged prospective white renters to consider residing at Southwind, he took actions to prevent or otherwise discourage similarly-situated African-Americans from residing at Southwind by, for example:
a. Referring African-Americans to another mobile home park;
b. Telling African-Americans not to “count on” future availability;
c. Failing to advise African-Americans of the amenities available to Southwind residents;
d. Falsely telling African-Americans that there is a waiting list; and
e. Falsely telling African-Americans that there is a rental application process.
21. Defendant Southwind Village, LLC is liable for the discriminatory conduct of its agent, Defendant Carl Bruckler.
CLAIMS FOR RELIEF
22. By the conduct described above, Defendants have:
a. Refused to negotiate for the rental of, or otherwise made unavailable or denied dwellings to persons because of race or color, in violation of Section 804(a) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a);
b. Represented, because of race or color, that dwellings were not available for rental when such dwellings were in fact so available, in violation of Section 804(d) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(d);
23. By the conduct described above, Defendants have:
a. Engaged in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq.; or
b. Denied to a group of persons rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq., in a manner that raises an issue of general public importance.
24. There are persons who have been victims of Defendants’ discriminatory housing practices, including any victims that the United States may identify. Such persons are “aggrieved persons” as defined in Section 802(i) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 3602(i), and have suffered damages as a result of the conduct described above.
25. Defendants’ conduct described above was intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for the rights of others.
PRAYER FOR RELIEF
WHEREFORE, the United States prays that the Court enter an order that:
1. Declares that Defendants’ policies and practices, as alleged herein, violate the Fair Housing Act;
2. Enjoins Defendants, their officers, employees, agents, successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them, from:
a. Discriminating against any person on the basis of race or color in any aspect of the rental of a dwelling;
b. Failing or refusing to take such affirmative steps as may be necessary to restore, as nearly as practicable, the victims of Defendants’ unlawful practices to the position they would have been in but for the discriminatory conduct; and
c. Failing or refusing to take such affirmative steps to prevent the recurrence of any discriminatory conduct in the future and to eliminate, to the extent practicable, the effects of Defendants’ unlawful practices;
3. Awards monetary damages to all persons harmed by Defendants’ conduct, pursuant to Section 814(d)(1)(B) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B); and
4. Assesses a civil penalty against each Defendant to vindicate the public interest in an amount authorized by Section 814(d)(1)(C) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(C), and 28 C.F.R. § 85.3(b)(3).
The United States further prays for such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.
Dated: September 30, 2015
LORETTA E. LYNCH
A. LEE BENTLEY, III VANITA GUPTA
United States Attorney Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Middle District of Florida Civil Rights Division
s/Sean P. Flynn s/Steven H. Rosenbaum
SEAN P. FLYNN STEVEN H. ROSENBAUM
Assistant United States Attorney Chief
United States Attorney’s Office
400 North Tampa Street, Suite 3200 s/Ronald H. Lee
Tampa, FL 33602 MICHAEL S. MAURER
Tel: (813) 274-6000 Deputy Chief
Fax: (813) 274-6200 RONALD H. LEE
Sean.Flynn2@usdoj.gov Trial Attorney
United States Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Northwestern Building, 7th Floor
Washington, DC 20530
Tel: (202) 616-1892
Fax: (202) 514-1116