UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
- v -
WNY METRO CROWN REALTY SALES &
APPRAISAL CORPORATION, LISA
BREIDENSTEIN, MARLENE SLADE,
and LILLIAN HOEFFS, 01-CV-____________
The United States of America alleges:
1. This action is brought by the United States to enforce the provisions of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (the Fair Housing Act), as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619. It is brought on behalf of Jean Joyce, individually, and sons, Brandon Billups and Michael Billups, and Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Inc. ("HOME") pursuant to Section 812(o) of the Fair Housing Act ("the Act"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §3612(o).
2. This Court has jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. §1345 and 42 U.S.C. §3612(o).
3. Defendant WNY Metro Crown Realty Sales & Appraisal Corporation ("Metro Crown") is a New York corporation located at 798 Center Road, West Seneca, New York 14224, whose business is to sell and rent residential and commercial properties in the Western New York area.
4. Defendant Lisa Breidenstein ("Breidenstein") is a resident of the Western District of New York and has a business address at 798 Center Road, West Seneca, New York 14224. Defendant Breidenstein, at the time of the events in this Complaint, was a realtor employed by defendant Metro Crown involved in the sale and rental of residential and commercial properties. Upon information and belief, defendant Lisa Breidenstein is the owner of a two-unit apartment building, which is non-owner occupied, known as 636 Center Road, West Seneca, New York 14224. The apartments in this residential rental property are dwellings within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. §3602(b).
5. Defendant Marlene Slade ("Slade") is a resident of the Western District of New York and has a business address at 798 Center Road, West Seneca, New York 14224. Defendant Slade, at the time of the events in this Complaint, was a realtor employed by defendant Metro Crown involved in the sale and rental of residential and commercial properties.
6. Defendant Lillian Hoeffs ("Hoeffs") is a resident of the Western District of New York and has a business address at 798 Center Road, West Seneca, New York 14224. Defendant Hoeffs, at the time of the events in this Complaint, was a realtor employed by defendant Metro Crown involved in the sale and rental of residential and commercial properties.
7. HOME, located at 700 Main Street, 3rd Floor, Buffalo, New York 14202, is a not-for-profit corporation whose purpose is to make equal opportunity in housing a reality in Western New York.
8. Jean Joyce and her sons, Brandon Billups and Michael Billups, reside at 86 Caldwell, Lackawanna, New York 14218. At the time of events in this Complaint, Brandon Billups and Michael Billups were approximately 4 and 6 years old.
9. On or about July 11, 1999, an advertisement appeared in the West Seneca Pennysaver which stated "FOR RENT: West Seneca, 2 bedroom upper apartment, $535 includes utilities; 674-9091 we/o/w".
10. On or about July 12, 1999, Ms. Joyce was informed about the advertisement by her sister, and Ms. Joyce called the advertised telephone number and spoke to defendant Slade to inquire about the apartment. Ms. Joyce was asked if she had any children and, if so, what were their ages. Defendant Slade stated, "I do not rent to mothers who have young children." Ms. Joyce was never given the opportunity to see the apartment. Defendant Slade did not offer an explanation as to why she did not allow Ms. Joyce the opportunity to see the apartment for herself.
11. On or about July 13, 1999, Ms. Joyce contacted HOME to report a complaint of housing discrimination. HOME began an investigation by conducting two tests.
12. On or about July 20, 1999, at about 11:30 a.m., HOME Tester #1 called the listed telephone number. HOME Tester #1 was placed in a role with family characteristics identical to those of Ms. Joyce. Defendant Hoeffs, the receptionist for defendant Metro Crown, answered the phone. When HOME Tester #1 asked questions about the school, defendant Hoeffs asked HOME Tester #1 the number and ages of her children. When HOME Tester #1 answered her, defendant Hoeffs said the apartment was too small for two children. HOME Tester #1 asked if she could see the apartment, and defendant Hoeffs said she would call back after reaching the tenant who was presently residing in the subject house. Defendant Hoeffs never called HOME Tester #1.
13. On or about July 20, 1999, at about 2:20 p.m., HOME Tester #2 called the listed number posing as a wife living alone with her husband. After speaking with someone in the rental office, HOME Tester #2 was given the owner's telephone number, 479-9987, and was told that the owner was out of town and that she could leave a message. HOME Tester #2 followed the instructions and was told by the message on the answering machine to call 674-9090.
14. On or about July 21, 1999, HOME Tester #2, who had informed the agent that only she and her husband would occupy the apartment, was called and an appointment was made for 2:00 p.m. for her to view the apartment.
15. On or about July 21, 1999, HOME Tester #1 called again, spoke to defendant Hoeffs, and reintroduced herself. Defendant Hoeffs stated that she remembered her but had not called back because she was not able to get in touch with the current tenant. She stated that she had her name and number on a list and would get in touch with her as soon as she could get in touch with the tenant. HOME Tester #1 never received a call from anyone from defendant Metro Crown and was never given the opportunity to see the apartment.
16. On or about July 24, 1999, HOME Tester #2 received a follow-up call from the owner asking if she was still interested in the apartment.
17. HOME Tester #1 made a follow-up call to defendant Metro Crown after HOME Tester #2's visit and again was not given an opportunity to view the apartment.
18. The defendants rented the subject apartment to a single male who completed an application for a lease on August 18, 1999.
19. Ms. Joyce and her sons have been greatly frustrated, distressed, upset, angered and inconvenienced physically, emotionally and financially by the defendants' discriminatory practices which denied Ms. Joyce and her sons the opportunity to rent particularly suitable housing.
20. HOME and its members have suffered injury expending significant resources on an investigation of the violations alleged herein thereby taking HOME's resources and attention away from other services such as education and referrals. Defendants' discriminatory acts have injured HOME's more than 500 members who pay dues.
21. On or about January 10, 2000, complainant Jean Joyce, individually and on behalf of her sons, Brandon Billups and Michael Billups, filed Complaint Number 02-99-0990-8 and HOME filed Complaint Number 02-99-0989-8 with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") alleging that the defendants discriminated against them on the basis of familial status, in violation of the Fair Housing Act. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619 (1997).
22. On or about February 23, 2000 and March 17, 2000, these complaints were amended to include defendant Hoeffs as a respondent, who was previously identified only as Lillian Doe.
23. Pursuant to the requirements of 42 U.S.C. §§ 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development conducted and completed an investigation of the complaints filed by Jean Joyce and HOME, attempted conciliation without success, and prepared a final investigative report. Based on information gathered in the investigation, the Secretary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §3610(g)(1), determined that reasonable cause exists to believe that discriminatory housing practices had occurred. Accordingly, on May 18, 2001, the Secretary issued a Charge of Discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §3610(g)(2)(A), charging defendants with engaging in discriminatory housing practices in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
24. On or about June 13, 2001, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §3612(a), the defendants elected to have the charge resolved in a civil action filed in federal district court.
25. On June 13, 2001, the Acting Chief Administrative Law Judge issued a Notice of Election of Judicial Determination and terminated the administrative proceeding on the Complaints filed by Ms. Joyce and HOME.
26. Following the Notice of Election, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §3612(o), the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development authorized the Attorney General to commence this civil action.
27. By refusing to rent the premises to Ms. Joyce, refusing to negotiate for the rental of the premises with Ms. Joyce, or denying and making the premises unavailable to Ms. Joyce, defendants unlawfully refused "to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer, or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of . . . familial status." 42 U.S.C. §3604(a).
28. By stating that the apartment would not be rented to mothers who have young children, defendants unlawfully made, printed, or published, or caused "to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on . . . familial status or an intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination." 42 U.S.C. §3604(c).
WHEREFORE, the United States of America prays that the Court enter an Order that:
1. Declares that the discriminatory housing practices of the defendants as set forth above violate the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619;
2. Enjoins the defendants, their agents, employees, successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with them from discriminating because of familial status against any person in any aspect of the rental, use or enjoyment of a dwelling pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3613(c);
3. Awards such damages as will fully compensate Jean Joyce and her sons, Brandon Billups and Michael Billups, for their shock, humiliation, embarrassment, emotional distress, inconvenience, the loss of a housing opportunity, and economic loss caused by defendants' discriminatory conduct, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3613(c);
4. Awards such damages as would fully compensate HOME for injuries caused by the defendants' discriminatory conduct, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3613 (c);
5. Awards punitive damages against defendants for each violation of the Act, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3613(c); and
6. Awards such additional relief as may be appropriate under 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3613(c).
Dated: Buffalo, New York, July __, 2001.
KATHLEEN M. MEHLTRETTER
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
Western District of New York
138 Delaware Avenue
Buffalo, New York 14202
MARY E. FLEMING
Assistant United States Attorney