EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
APARTMENT & HOME HUNTERS, INC.,
DIGNA HUNTER, and LORI MABILE,
The United States of America alleges:
- This complaint is filed by the United States pursuant to section 814(a) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3614(a).
- This Court has jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. §1345 and 42 U.S.C. §3614. Venue is proper in the Eastern District of Louisiana as the claim arose in Jefferson Parish.
- Defendant Apartment & Home Hunters, Inc. ("AHH") is a business incorporated in and doing business in the State of Louisiana, with an office located in Metairie, Louisiana. Defendant Digna Hunter is and was at all relevant times the owner and manager of AHH. Defendant Lori Mabile is and was at all relevant times an assistant manager at AHH.
- AHH is in the business of assisting persons in locating and securing residential rental properties, including single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments. These rental properties are dwellings within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).
- Owners of rental properties list with AHH for a fee, providing AHH with a description of their properties along with corresponding rental terms and conditions. AHH employs leasing agents to use these listings to assist clients in finding rental properties. The leasing agents earn commissions on each property for which they arrange a rental.
- AHH has listings for single-family homes, townhouses, small apartment buildings and large apartment complexes. The great majority of AAH's listings for single-family homes, townhouses and small apartment buildings are placed by individual owners.
- A number of the individual property owners listing with AHH have indicated to AHH that they do not wish to have black tenants. Some individual property owners have similarly indicated that they do not wish to have tenants with children. Defendants have honored these discriminatory preferences and instructed AHH employees to honor these preferences as well.
- To implement the discriminatory preferences described above, defendants engaged in, and instructed AHH employees to engage in, numerous discriminatory practices, including but not limited to the following:
- avoiding doing business with black persons, or discouraging such persons from doing business with AHH, where possible;
- referring black persons to other large properties (usually apartment complexes where owners had not indicated racial preferences) as opposed to individually owned properties (where owners had indicated racial preferences) where possible, regardless of the preference of the black client;
- referring clients with children to properties without restrictions regarding children as opposed to other properties with such restrictions, regardless of the preference of the client; and
- falsely informing black clients, and clients with children, that no rental property meeting the client's description was available in order to preferentially rent to white prospective tenants, or to tenants without children.
- The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, Inc. ("FHAC"), a private fair housing group in New Orleans, conducted an investigation of the policies implemented by defendants to evaluate compliance with the Fair Housing Act. As part of this investigation, FHAC conducted a series of tests in July and August of 1996, using testers to compare the treatment afforded by defendants to different types of prospective renters. Testers are persons who, without the intent to rent an apartment or buy a house, gather information about housing for rent or sale in order to help determine whether discriminatory practices are occurring. The FHAC tests revealed evidence of discrimination by defendants as outlined above.
- The United States Department of Justice conducted further testing in July of 1997 as part of an independent investigation of practices at AHH. This testing confirmed the pattern of discrimination by defendants outlined above.
- As described above in paragraphs 6 through 10, defendants have engaged in discrimination against persons because of race, color, and familial status in the rental of dwellings, in violation of the Fair Housing Act, by:
- Refusing to rent or otherwise making unavailable to rent dwellings to persons because of race, color, or familial status, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a);
- Making a statement with respect to the rental of a dwelling that indicates discrimination based on race or color, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(c); and
- Representing to persons because of race, color, or familial status that dwellings are not available for inspection or rental when such dwellings are in fact so available, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(d).
- The conduct of defendants as described above constitutes:
- A pattern and practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.; and
- A denial to a group of persons of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq., which denial raises an issue of general public importance.
- Persons who have been victims of defendants' discriminatory conduct are "aggrieved persons" as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i).
- In engaging in the unlawful conduct described above in this complaint, defendants have acted intentionally, willfully, and in disregard for the rights of aggrieved persons.
WHEREFORE, the United States prays that the Court enter an ORDER that:
- Declares that the actions, policies, and practices of the defendants described herein are in violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.;
- Enjoins the defendants permanently from discriminating against any person with respect to housing on the basis of race, color, or familial status;
- Enjoins the defendants to take appropriate affirmative steps to ensure that the activities complained of above are not engaged in again by defendants or their agents, and to eliminate, to the extent practicable, the effects of defendants' unlawful housing practices;
- Awards each person aggrieved by defendants' conduct reasonable compensatory and punitive damages; and
- Assesses a civil penalty against the defendants in the amount authorized by 42 U.S.C. §§ 3613(e) and 3614(d)(1)(C), in order to vindicate the public interest.
The United States further prays for such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.
Isabelle Katz Pinzler
Acting Assistant Attorney General
Eddie J. Jordan, Jr.
United States Attorney
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
Brian F. Heffernan
Steven J. Mulroy
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
Civil Rights Division
Department of Justice
P.O. Box 65998
Washington, D.C. 20035
Enid A. Francis (#5816)
Assistant United States Attorney
Chief, Civil Division p>
Document Filed: September 18, 1997 > >