Recent Accomplishments Of The Housing And Civil Enforcement Section

(updated July 6, 2016)

The Housing and Civil Enforcement Section of the Civil Rights Division is responsible for the Departments' enforcement of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), along with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), the land use provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations.

Under the FHA, the Department of Justice may bring lawsuits where there is reason to believe that a person or entity is engaged in a "pattern or practice" of discrimination or where a denial of rights to a group of persons raises an issue of general public importance. The Department of Justice also brings cases where a housing discrimination complaint has been investigated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD has issued a charge of discrimination, and one of the parties to the case has "elected" to go to federal court. In FHA cases, the Department can obtain injunctive relief, including affirmative requirements for training and policy changes, monetary damages and, in pattern or practice cases, civil penalties.

Several cases we have filed or resolved recently exemplify our efforts to ensure the availability of the housing opportunities guaranteed by the Fair Housing Act. (1) The complaints and settlement documents for the cases discussed in the text, as well as other cases handled by the Housing Section, can be found on the Housing Section’s website at www.justice.gov/crt/about/hce/caselist.php.

Fair Lending

  • On June 29, 2016, the Division filed a complaint and submitted a proposed consent order in United States and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. BancorpSouth Bank (N.D. Miss.).  The complaint alleges that the Bank engaged in a pattern or practice of redlining in the Memphis MSA; discriminating on the basis of race in the pricing and underwriting of mortgage loans originated by its Community Banking Department; and implementing a discriminatory loan policy or practice of denying applications from minorities more quickly than similarly-situated white applicants in its Mortgage Department, in violation of ECOA and FHA.  The proposed consent order requires the Bank to amend its pricing and underwriting policies, establish a monitoring program, train employees on fair housing/lending, extend credit offers to unlawfully denied applicants, and open a new full-service branch or Loan Processing Office (LPO) in a high-minority neighborhood, among other injunctive relief.  The proposed order also includes a $2.78 million settlement fund to remediate harmed borrowers for pricing and underwriting discrimination; a $4 million loan subsidy program to extend mortgage loans to qualified applicants in the Memphis MSA; at least $800,000 in advertising, outreach, and community partnerships; and a $3 million civil money penalty to the CFPB. 

  • On February 11, 2016, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Toyota Motor Credit Corp. (C.D. Cal.), an ECOA lawsuit against the nation’s largest captive auto lender.  The complaint, which was filed on February 2, 2016, alleges that TMCC is responsible for higher dealer markups for African-American and Asian/Pacific Islander borrowers based on race and national origin since January 2011.  Under the consent order, TMCC will implement new dealer compensation policies that lower the maximum amount of permissible dealer markup and will pay $19.9 million in compensation to borrowers who took out loans between January 2011 and January 2016 and paid higher markup based on the alleged discrimination.  Additionally, Toyota will pay up to $2 million to African-American and Asian/Pacific Islander borrowers with markup disparities while Toyota is preparing to implement the new policies.

  • On January 21, 2016, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Evolve Bank & Trust (W.D. Tenn.). The complaint, which was filed on January 19, 2016, alleges that the bank discriminated on the basis of disability and receipt of public assistance by requiring mortgage loan applicants who had disability income to provide a letter from a doctor to show that their income would continue. The consent order provides for $86,000 to compensate 50 affected borrowers and requires the bank to issue new policies and train its employees.
  • On December 1, 2015, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Sage Bank (D. Mass.). The complaint, which was filed on November 30, 2015, alleged that Sage Bank engaged in discrimination on the basis of race and national origin in the pricing of its residential mortgage loans in violation of Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act. The consent order requires Sage Bank to amend its pricing and compensation policies, establish a monitoring program, and have employees undergo fair housing/lending training, as well as establish a settlement fund of $1,175,000 to compensate aggrieved borrowers and applicants. This case is based on a referral from the FDIC.
  • On November 4, 2015, the court entered a consent order in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and United States v. Hudson City Savings Bank, F.S.B. (D.N.J.), a Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act case. The joint complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which was filed on September 24, 2015, alleges that from at least 2009 to 2013, Hudson City Savings Bank (Hudson City) failed to provide its home mortgage lending services to majority-black-and-Hispanic neighborhoods on an equal basis as it provided those services to predominantly white neighborhoods, a practice commonly known as "redlining," throughout its major market areas in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. Under the consent order, Hudson City will provide $25 million in a loan subsidy fund to increase the amount of credit the bank extends to formerly redlined neighborhoods across its market areas; invest $2.25 million for advertising, outreach, financial education, and community partnership and open two full-service branches in these neighborhoods; increase the number of loan officers dedicated to majority-black-and-Hispanic neighborhoods; develop and implement a compliance management system and training curriculum to ensure compliance with fair lending obligations; and create a comprehensive long-term plan to increase lending in previously redlined areas. Hudson City will further pay a civil monetary penalty of $5.5 million, pursuant to the CFPB’s civil penalty authority under ECOA.
  • On October 1, 2015, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Eagle Bank and Trust Co. of Missouri (E.D. Mo.).  The complaint, filed on September 29, 2015, alleges that the bank engaged in a pattern or practice of redlining in the area of St. Louis City north of Interstate 64, including Ferguson and Florissant.  The consent order includes a loan subsidy fund of $800,000 for future lending in the redlined areas and two new full-service branches to serve those areas.
  • On October 1, 2015, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Fifth Third Bank (S.D. Ohio).  The complaint, filed on September 28, 2015, alleges that the bank engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of race and national origin in its indirect auto lending business.  The consent order includes $18 million in restitution for harmed African American and Hispanic borrowers and requires the bank to change the way it prices its loans by limiting dealer markup to 125 basis points (or 1.25%) for loans of 60 months or less, and to 100 basis points (or 1%) for loans greater than 60 months.
  • On July 16, 2015, the court entered a consent order in United States v. American Honda Finance Corporation (C.D. Cal.), an Equal Credit Opportunity Act case, filed on July 14, 2015, alleging that Honda discriminated by permitting automobile dealers to charge higher interest rates to borrowers on the basis of race and national origin.  Under the consent order, Honda will implement policies and procedures that limit the dealer markup on automobile retail installment contracts.  In addition, Honda will establish a $24 million fund to compensate certain African-American, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander borrowers harmed by the lender's practices and a $1 million fund for the operation of a consumer financial education program.  This matter was the subject of a joint DOJ/CFPB investigation and an eventual referral from the CFPB.
  • On June 18, 2015, the court entered a consent order in United States and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Provident Funding Associates (N.D. Cal.).  The complaint, filed on May 28, 2015, alleged that Provident Funding, a California-based nationwide wholesale residential mortgage lender, discriminated on the bases of race and national origin in the total broker fees it charged to African-American borrowers between 2006 -2011 and Hispanic borrowers between 2006-2009, in violation of both the Fair Housing and Equal Credit Opportunity Acts.  The consent order provides for $9 million in monetary damages to aggrieved borrowers, as well as standard training, record keeping, and reporting requirements.  The matter was referred to the Division by the FTC, and we conducted the investigation jointly with the CFPB.

Rental and Sales Discrimination:

  • On June 23, 2016, the United States Attorney’s Office filed a complaint in United States v. Dominic Properties, LLC (D. Minn.), a referral from HUD, alleging that the owners and managers of an apartment complex in Minneapolis, Minnesota violated the Fair Housing Act by enacting and enforcing overly restrictive rules limiting children’s presence in the hallways or common areas.

  • On June 14, 2016, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Brinson (D. Nev.).  The complaint, which was filed on July 10, 2015, alleges that property owners violated the Fair Housing Act by placing a series of written advertisements that indicated a preference against renting to families with children, and denying a family with children who responded to one of the advertisements the opportunity to rent a single-family home.  Under the consent order, defendants will pay $24,000 in damages to victims of the discrimination and a $12,000 civil penalty to the United States.

  • On May 31, 2016, the United States Attorney's Office filed a complaint in United States v. DeRaffele (D. Mass.), alleging that the owner of a four-unit rental property in Springfield, Massachusetts refused to rent an apartment to a family because it included children under six years old and the units had no lead certificate.

  • On May 18, 2016, the court entered aconsent order in United States v. Gentle Manor Estates, LLC (N.D. Ind.).  The Fair Housing Act complaint, which was filed on May 18, 2015, alleges that the defendants maintained a discriminatory policy of refusing to rent mobile home lots to families with children in a 170 unit mobile home park in Crown Point, Indiana.  The allegations are based on evidence generated by the Department's Fair Housing Testing Program.  The consent order, requires the defendants to pay $100,000 in monetary relief to aggrieved individuals and a $30,000 civil penalty.
  • On March 15, 2016, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Mere (M.D. Fla.) , a Fair Housing Act case developed by the Division’s Fair Housing Testing Program.  The complaint, which was filed on February 29, 2016, alleges that the owner and operator of a mobile home and recreational vehicle park discriminated on the basis of race or color by falsely telling prospective African-American renters that there were no available mobile homes, recreational vehicles, or recreational vehicle lots at the park, making other discouraging statements, and failing to provide African-American renters complete and accurate information about available units and lots.  The settlement requires the defendant to implement nondiscriminatory application and rental procedures at the park, undergo fair-housing training, establish a $30,000 aggrieved person’s fund and pay a $10,000 civil penalty.

  • On December 15, 2015, the court entered a partial consent order in United States v. Southwind Village, LLC and Bruckler (M.D. Fla.), a Fair Housing Act case developed by the Division’s Fair Housing Testing Program.  The complaint, which was filed on September 30, 2015, alleges that the owners and manager of a mobile home and recreational vehicle park discriminated on the basis of race or color by falsely telling prospective African American renters that there were no available recreational vehicle lots at the park and making other discouraging statements.  The partial consent order resolves claims against Defendant Southwind Village, LLC only, and will require Southwind Village, LLC to amend its rental policies, have employees undergo fair housing training, take steps to identify victims, establish a $35,000 victim compensation fund and pay a $25,000 civil penalty.

  • On November 19, 2015, the Division filed a complaint in United States v. Parkside East, Inc. (E.D. Mich.), alleging that the owners and property manager of apartment complexes in East Lansing and Holt, Michigan in the Western District of the state and Owosso, Michigan in the Eastern District of the state violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to allow single parent families with children under the age of 18 in one-bedroom apartments at the three complexes while allowing households with two adults to rent such apartments.
  • On November 9, 2015, the Division filed a complaint in United States v. Loecher (D. Colo.), alleging that the owners and property manager of a two building, 28-unit apartment complex in Lakewood, Colorado discriminated by generally not allowing families with children to live in the front building of the complex, and generally restricting them to apartments in the rear building, in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The allegations are based on evidence collected by testers employed by the Denver Metro Fair Housing Center.
  • On October 7, 2015, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Collier (W.D. La.).  The complaint, filed on November 19, 2014, alleged that Cecil Carroll Collier harassed, threatened, and intimidated his neighbor because of her race or national origin, and because she had participated in a prior Department of Justice investigation of a federal fair housing complaint filed against Collier’s older brother.  The consent order requires the defendant to pay $10,000 in damages to the complainant.
  • On August 31, 2015, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Williams (S.D. Ill.).  The complaint, filed on August 5, 2015, was based on evidence developed by the Division’s Fair Housing Testing Program that the on-site manager and owners of a mobile home park in Marion, Illinois discriminated against African Americans and families with children.  During the testing, the on-site manager allegedly told white testers that mobile homes were available for rent, while telling African-American testers that no homes were available.  Defendants also allegedly made statements indicating that families with children were discouraged from living in the mobile home park.  The consent decree requires defendants to create a $45,000 settlement fund for aggrieved persons and pay $30,000 to the government as a civil penalty.
  • On August 24, 2015, the court issued a judgment in favor of the United States in United States v. Wren (N.D. Ill.), based on a bench trial that took place on June 5, 2015.  The court found that the defendant asked the complainant what her disability was and refused to rent to her when she learned that the complainant was HIV positive.  The court also found that the defendant engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination against families with children and specifically discriminated against one family.  The court awarded $15,000 in damages to the aggrieved individuals and issued a permanent injunction.
  • On July 28, 2015, the court entered a consent judgment in United States v. Wallschlaeger (S.D. Ill.).  The complaint, filed on February 4, 2014, alleged a pattern or practice of discrimination based on race and familial status by the owners and operators of a mobile home park in Effingham, Illinois.  The consent judgment provides for $217,500 in damages (including attorneys' fees) to the intervenor plaintiffs and a $34,000 civil penalty, as well as standard training, record keeping, and reporting requirements.  This case is based on evidence developed by the Division's Fair Housing Testing Program.

Sexual Harassment:

  • On March 21, 2016, the court approved the distribution of the $1,000,000 settlement fund to 71 aggrieved persons in United States v. Southeastern Community and Family Services, Inc. (Wesley) (M.D.N.C.).  The complaint, filed on December 10, 2014, alleged that Southeastern Community and Family Services, Inc, a public housing agency that administers the Section 8 Voucher Program in Scotland County, NC, and two of its employees sexually harassed female participants and applicants of the Voucher Program in violation of the Fair Housing Act.  This case was consolidated with a previously-filed private action (Sellers v. Southeastern Community and Family Services, Inc. (M.D.N.C.)).  The consent decree, which was entered by the court on July 2, 2015, required the defendants to pay $2.7 million in damages to victims of their discriminatory conduct, including fees and costs, and more than $25,000 in civil penalties.  It also bars the individual defendants from participating in the management of any Section 8 Voucher Program and any residential rental properties in the future.  It requires the agency to establish non-discrimination policies, require employees to attend training, and hire an independent manager to oversee the agency's Section 8 Voucher Program.
     
  • On March 16, 2016, the Division filed a complaint in United States v. Walden (N.D. W. Va.), alleging that the owners and managers of rental units in the Morgantown, West Virginia area violated the Fair Housing Act by sexually harassing female tenants and by retaliating against those who complained.
     
  • On February 26, 2016, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Pendygraft (E.D. Ky.), a Fair Housing Act sexual harassment case.  The complaint, which was filed on September 29, 2015, alleges that one of the defendants made repeated unwelcome demands of a tenant for sexual favors.  The consent decree provides for damages of $5,000, based on the defendants’ financial disclosures, and up to $50,000 if the United States learns of any undisclosed assets worth $10,000 or more.

  • On October 26, 2015 the Division filed a complaint in United States v. Kansas City, Kansas Housing Authority (D. Kan.), alleging that a housing authority employee sexually harassed one woman who was seeking admission to the public housing program and another woman who was trying to remain in the public housing program.
     
  • On September 30, 2015, the Division filed a proposed consent order in United States v. Encore Management Company, Inc. (S.D. W. Va.).  The complaint, filed on November 14, 2014, alleged that the defendants had sexually harassed female tenants, in violation of the Fair Housing Act at a 56-unit apartment building at Perkins Parke Apartments in Cross Lanes, West Virginia.  The proposed consent order requires the payment of $110,000 to seven adult and four minor victims and a $10,000 civil penalty.
  • On September 9, 2015, the Division filed a Statement of Interest in Mouton v. Augustine (W.D. La.), a Fair Housing Act sexual harassment case against the owner and manager of an apartment complex in Abbeville, Louisiana.  Plaintiff alleged that she was sexually harassed by the apartment manager from the time she first inquired about her apartment until her tenancy ended more than two years later.  Defendants filed a motion to dismiss all claims relating to conduct that happened after the plaintiff rented the apartment, arguing that post-acquisition conduct is not covered by the Fair Housing Act.  After the Division filed the Statement of Interest, defendants withdrew the portions of their motion arguing that that Fair Housing Act does not apply to post-acquisition conduct.

Disability Discrimination:

  • On May 3, 2016, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Avatar Properties, Inc. (D. N.H.), a Fair Housing Act case alleging that a condominium complex in Londonderry, New Hampshire refused to assign an accessible parking space to a resident with a spinal cord injury.  The consent decree requires the defendants to pay $25,000 to the HUD complainant, to adopt a reasonable accommodation policy and to obtain fair housing training.
     
  • On February 8, 2016, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Schimnich (D. Minn.). The complaint, which was filed on November 15, 2013, alleges that the owner and manager of a three-unit residential rental property St. Cloud, Minnesota violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent an apartment to the HUD complainant because she used an assistance animal. The consent decree requires the defendant to pay $2,000 to the HUD complainant, to adopt a reasonable accommodations policy and to obtain fair housing training.
  • On January 22, 2016, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Brooklyn Park 73rd Leased Housing Assoc., LLC (D. Minn.), a Fair Housing Act case alleging that the owners and managers of an apartment complex in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota placed undue conditions on a woman’s request to live with her assistance animal and then refused to renew her lease. The consent decree requires the defendants to pay $35,000 to the woman and to adopt a reasonable accommodations policy and obtain fair housing training.
  • On January 20, 2016, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Applewood of Cross Plains (W.D. Wis.). The complaint, which was filed on January 15, 2016, alleges that the owners and property managers of a 15-unit apartment complex in Cross Plains, Wisconsin violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to renew the complainant’s lease due to her disability (cerebral palsy) and her daughter’s disability (Down Syndrome), failing to stop disability-related harassment by other tenants and demanding that the complainant develop a “plan” to deal with her daughter’s disability-related behavior. The consent decree provides payments of $40,000 to the three aggrieved persons and puts new policies into place at all properties rented or managed by the defendants.
  • On January 7, 2016, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Christensen (D.S.D.). The complaint, which was filed on September 18, 2015, alleged that the owners of an apartment complex refused to allow a tenant to have an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation to the no-pet policy. The settlement requires defendants to pay $6,000 to the HUD complainant.
  • On December 23, 2015, the United States Attorney's Office filed a Fair Housing Act complaint in United States v. Trump Village Section IV Inc. (E.D.N.Y.), alleging that a housing cooperative in Brooklyn, New York refused to allow an Army combat veteran with PTSD and two other residents with disabilities to live with their emotional support animals and then retaliated against them for exercising their fair housing rights.

  • On October 19, 2015, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Lincolnshire Senior Care LLC (N.D. Ill.).  The complaint, filed on October 5, 2015, alleged that a Continuing Care Retirement Community discriminated on the basis of disability in its dining and live-in care policies.  The consent order requires policy changes at this facility and other facilities owned or operated by the defendants, the establishment of a $210,000 settlement fund to compensate victims and a $45,000 civil penalty.
  • On September 4, 2015, the court entered a consent order in United States v. University of Nebraska at Kearney (“UNK”) (D. Neb.), in which the United States alleged that two former students with disabilities were denied the right to keep assistance animals in their university apartments.  The United States also alleged that UNK’s no-pet policy, which exempted animals owned by Residence Hall Directors and service animals under the ADA, constituted a pattern or practice of discrimination.  Under the consent order, UNK will: (1) pay $140,000 to the two former students who sought and were denied reasonable accommodations to keep assistance animals; and (2) change its housing policy to allow persons with psychological disabilities to keep animals with them in university housing where such animals provide necessary therapeutic benefits.
  • On August 28, 2015, the United States Attorney’s Office filed a complaint in United States v. Salem (D. S.D.), alleging that a landlord in Sioux City, South Dakota violated the Fair Housing Act on the basis of disability by refusing to allow a tenant to return from a nursing facility to his unit if he was using a wheelchair, because the landlord feared that the wheelchair could damage the carpet.
  • On August 24, 2015, the court issued a judgment in favor of the United States in United States v. Wren (N.D. Ill.), based on a bench trial that took place on June 5, 2015.  The court found that the defendant asked the complainant what her disability was and refused to rent to her when she learned that the complainant was HIV positive.  The court also found that the defendant engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination against families with children and specifically discriminated against one family.  The court awarded $15,000 in damages to the aggrieved individuals and issued a permanent injunction.
  • On July 28, 2015, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Westfield Partners (E.D. Pa.).  The complaint, filed on November 20, 2014, alleged that the defendants refused the request of a tenant who uses a wheelchair and lived on the second floor of defendants' apartment building to transfer to a first-floor unit when defendants announced that renovations to the building's elevator would leave tenants without an elevator for at least six weeks, despite the availability of first-floor units during the relevant time frame.  The consent order requires defendants to pay $45,128 to the tenant.
  • On July 9, 2015, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Trinity Villas, Inc. (M.D. Fla.).  This Fair Housing Act case, which was filed on November 18, 2013, alleged that the defendants discriminated against an individual with a mobility impairment by refusing her request for a ground floor apartment unit as a reasonable accommodation for her disability.  The consent decree requires the defendants to pay $9,000 in monetary damages to the complainant and provides for other injunctive relief.

"Design and Construction" Cases:

  • On June 23, 2016, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Noble Homes (N.D. Ohio), a Fair Housing Act case alleging that the defendants failed to design and construct two neighboring condominium complexes with the required accessibility features.  The consent order includes injunctive relief and a total payment of $160,000 for a retrofit fund to remediate features of the condominium units that are inaccessible, damages for aggrieved persons, and a civil penalty. 

  • On May 18, 2016, the court entered a final consent order in United States v. Glenwood Management Corp. (S.D.N.Y.), requiring the architect-defendant to pay $15,000 to compensate aggrieved persons and a $25,000 civil penalty. The complaint, which was filed by the United States Attorney’s Office on February 3, 2016, alleges that the defendants failed to design and construct Liberty Plaza, an apartment building at 10 Liberty Street, New York, New York, and eight other residential properties in New York City in compliance with the Fair Housing Act's accessibility requirements.  An earlier consent order, entered on February 11, 2016, required the developer-defendants to retrofit certain noncompliant features in the public and common-use areas and in the dwelling units of Liberty Plaza and conduct compliance audits and formulate proposals for any retrofits needed at eight other properties.  That decree also required the developer-defendants to pay at least $440,000, and up to $900,000, to compensate persons aggrieved by the alleged discriminatory housing practices, as well as a civil penalty of $50,000.

  • On March 8, 2016, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Rappuhn (N.D. Ala.), a Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act design and construction case. The settlement requires the defendants to make accessibility retrofits at 71 properties in four states with over 2,500 ground-floor units, to pay $300,000 to establish a fund to compensate victims and $50,000 to the government in civil penalties, and to take actions to ensure compliance with these laws in future construction. Sixty-nine of these properties were built with financial assistance from the federal government’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program or other federal programs. The complaint, which was filed on September 30, 2015, alleges violations of the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act and the ADA against the owners and developers of 71 multifamily apartment complexes in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

  • On February 29, 2016, the court entered a final consent order in United States v. The Durst Organization, Inc. (S.D.N.Y.), requiring the architect-defendant to pay $35,000 to compensate aggrieved persons and a $30,000 civil penalty.  The complaint, filed by the United States Attorney’s Office on April 16, 2014, alleged that the defendants failed to design and construct The Helena, a residential apartment complex at 601 West 57th Street, New York, New York, with the features of accessible and adaptive design and construction required by the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  An earlier consent decree, entered on November 13, 2015, required the developer-defendants to retrofit non-compliant features at The Helena and several additional properties subsequently determined by the United States to have been designed or constructed by the developers.  That decree also provided for a $250,000 settlement fund for payments to aggrieved persons and a civil penalty of $55,000.  The settlement fund may be increased up to $515,000 if the initial amount proves insufficient to compensate all aggrieved persons.

  • On November 3, 2015, the court entered a consent order between the United States and Rule 19 defendant Summer Miss, LLC in United States v. Dawn Properties (S.D. Miss.). Summer Miss LLC is the current owner of one of the six subject properties named in the United States’ complaint. As part of the negotiated terms of the consent order, the Rule 19 defendant will not dispute the identification and enumeration of FHA and/or ADA violations at its property, and waives all rights to object to any retrofits at its property that may be requested or required as part of any subsequent settlement, consent order, or court order in this litigation. This is the second consent order that has been entered into by the United States and a Rule 19 party in this case. On December 18, 2014, a consent decree with Rule 19 Defendant 14510 Lemoyne Boulevard, LLC was entered. The complaint was filed May 23, 2014, alleging failure to design and construct multi-family dwellings in a manner accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, in violation of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • On October 3, 2015, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Sayville Dev. Group (E.D.N.Y.).  The complaint, filed on August 28, 2007, alleged design and construction violations against an owner and architect in Sayville, New York.  The consent order requires the retrofitting of two of the defendants’ properties, the payment of $32,500 in compensatory damages, to be divided among current and former residents and a not-for profit fair housing organization, Long Island Housing Services.  In addition, the defendants must set aside $5,000 in a fund to retrofit certain items at a tenant’s request, and pay a civil penalty of $2,500.
  • On July 24, 2015, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Biafora's Inc. (N.D. W. Va.).  The complaint, filed on September 29, 2014, alleged that Biafora's Inc. and several affiliated companies violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act when they designed and constructed twenty-three residential properties in West Virginia and Pennsylvania with steps, insufficient maneuvering space, excessive slopes, and other barriers for persons with disabilities.  The consent order requires the defendants to pay $180,000 to establish a settlement fund and a $25,000 civil penalty, as well as to make substantial retrofits, including replacing excessively sloped portions of sidewalks, installing properly sloped curb walkways to allow persons with disabilities to access units from sidewalks and parking areas, replacing cabinets in bathrooms and kitchens to provide sufficient room for wheelchair users, widening doorways and reducing door threshold heights.  The settlement also requires the defendants to construct a new apartment complex in Morgantown, West Virginia, with 100 accessible units.

Discriminatory Land Use and Zoning Practices

  • On June 16, 2016, the court entered a consent decree in U.S. v. City of Beaumont (E.D. Tex.).  The complaint, which was filed on filed on May 26, 2015, alleges that the City implemented and enforced spacing requirements and overly restrictive fire code regulations for small group homes for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, in violation of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The consent decree requires the City to pay $435,000 in monetary relief to 11 aggrieved individuals and a $15,000 civil penalty.  The City will also pay $25,000 to Disability Rights Texas, the organization that represented the three individuals who filed the HUD complaints and intervened in the United States’ lawsuit.  In addition, the City consented to injunctive relief, including ceasing enforcement of its spacing requirements and overly restrictive fire code regulations, implementing a comprehensive reasonable accommodation policy, requiring its officials to attend fair housing training, and appointing a fair housing compliance officer.

  • On April 21, 2016, the Division filed a Statement of Interest in Drayton, et al. v. McIntosh County, et al. (S.D. Ga.), a lawsuit alleging discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin under a number of statutes, including the Fair Housing Act and Title VI.  The complaint alleges that several defendants, including McIntosh County and the State of Georgia, discriminated against the Gullah Geechee population on Sapelo Island, through, among other things, the unequal provision of municipal services, unequal application of zoning and land use ordinances, and unfair property tax appraisals.  The Statement of Interest argues, among other things, that post-acquisition claims are cognizable under the FHA.
     
  • On April 19, 2016, the court approved and adopted a settlement reached by the parties in United States v. Colorado City (D. Ariz.), a Fair Housing Act/police misconduct pattern or practice case alleging discrimination based on religion.  The settlement agreement resolves the monetary aspects of the United States’ claim under the Fair Housing Act and provides for $1,435,000 in damages to nine aggrieved persons and $165,000 in civil penalties.  On March 7, 2016, a federal jury in Phoenix returned a verdict finding that the towns of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah and their joint water company systematically discriminated against individuals who are not members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) in the provision of housing, utility and policing services in violation of the Fair Housing Act.  The jury also issued an advisory verdict on the Department of Justice’s claims under Section 14141 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, finding that the Colorado City Marshal’s Office, the cities’ joint police department, operated as an arm of the FLDS church in violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment; engaged in discriminatory policing in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and the establishment clause; and subjected individuals to unlawful stops, seizures and arrests in violation of the Fourth Amendment.  Because these advisory findings are not binding, the Department of Justice’s Section 14141 claim remains under consideration by the district court judge, who will issue a ruling on whether the defendants engaged in these constitutional violations, and if so, what relief is appropriate.

  • On March 7, 2016, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. City of Fort Worth (N.D. Tex.).  The complaint, filed on February 22, 2015, alleged that the City violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to grant a reasonable accommodation to Ebby’s Place, a group home for persons recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.  The consent decree requires the City to pay $135,000 to the sober home in monetary relief and a $10,000 civil penalty.  The City also adopted a reasonable accommodation ordinance.
     
  • On July 29, 2015, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. City of Petal (S.D. Miss.).  This is a Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act case, filed on July 28, in which the United States alleged that the city discriminated against a group home provider and three residents because of the residents’ intellectual disabilities.  The decree, which also resolves a private lawsuit brought by the provider, requires the defendant to pay $25,000 in monetary damages to the provider and $25,000 to the government as a civil penalty, and provides for extensive injunctive relief, including the establishment of a city compliance coordinator.  As part of the settlement, the city adopted various zoning amendments and a comprehensive reasonable accommodations policy.
  • On July 28, 2015, the court approved a settlement agreement in United States v. Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles (C.D. Cal.).  The complaint, which was filed on July 20, 2015, alleged that the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles and the Cities of Lancaster and Palmdale engaged in a pattern or practice of Fair Housing Act discrimination against African-American participants in the federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program living in the Cities of Lancaster and Palmdale, CA.  The settlement agreement provides for comprehensive reforms, a $1.975 million victim fund and a $25,000 civil penalty.
  • In addition to these and the many other cases that we bring to ensure fair housing opportunities, the Division also is involved in ongoing efforts to educate the public and various entities involved in the housing industry about their rights and responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act.

    On April 30, 2013, we issued a Joint Statement on the Accessibility (Design and Construction) Requirements for Multifamily Dwellings under the Fair Housing Act with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The joint statement, issued in the form of questions and answers, supplements previously-issued guidance and is designed to help design professionals, developers and builders better understand their obligations and help persons with disabilities better understand their rights regarding the "design and construction" requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act. The guidance is available online at http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/hce/documents/jointstatement_accessibility_4-30-13.pdf.

    On March 5, 2008, we issued a Joint Statement on Reasonable Modifications under the Fair Housing Act with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The joint statement provides technical assistance, in a series of questions and answers, regarding the rights and obligations of persons with disabilities and housing providers relating to reasonable modifications, and is available online at http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/hce/documents/reasonable_modifications_mar08.pdf.

    In 2004, we issued a Joint Statement on Reasonable Accommodations with HUD, providing technical assistance relating to reasonable accommodations under the Fair Housing Act. It is available online at http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/hce/jointstatement_ra.pdf.

Public Accommodations (Title II)

  • On June 30, 2015, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Routh Guys, LLC d/b/a Kung Fu Saloon (N.D. Tex.).  The complaint, which was also filed on June 30, 2015, alleged that the owners and operators of a bar and restaurant located in Dallas, Austin, and Houston, Texas, discriminated against African-American and Asian-American patrons by denying them admission into Kung Fu Saloons, in violation of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The consent order requires Kung Fu Saloons to post and enforce a non-discriminatory dress code policy; to implement a system for receiving and investigating complaints of discrimination; and to conduct monitoring to ensure that Kung Fu Saloon's employees are acting in a non-discriminatory manner consistent with federal law.

Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)

  • On October 26, 2015, the Division filed a complaint in United States v. Pittsfield Charter Township (E.D. Mich.), alleging that the Township violated RLUIPA when it denied a zoning amendment to permit construction of an Islamic school.  The complaint alleges that the denial imposed a substantial burden on the religious exercise of the school without a compelling governmental justification pursued through the least restrictive means.
  • On September 30, 2015, the Division filed a complaint in United States v. City of Des Plaines (N.D. Ill.), alleging that the City of Des Plaines violated RLUIPA by denying a rezoning application by the American Islamic Society (AIC) so that it could use a vacant office building as a place of worship.  The complaint alleges that the denial of the rezoning substantially burdened the religious exercise of AIC, treated AIC on terms less than equal with other non-religious institutions and assemblies and discriminated against AIC on the basis of religion or religious denomination.
  • On January 5, 2015, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. City of St. Anthony (D. Minn.). The complaint, which was filed on August 27, 2014, alleges that the city violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) when it denied a conditional use permit to a mosque to locate on the ground floor of an office building. Under the consent decree, the City will allow the mosque to conduct religious worship at its property in the City by a rezoning method known as a Planned Unit Development (PUD). This will grant AHIC permanent religious use of its property. The City also agreed to an injunction to follow RLUIPA, to make information about RLUIPA available on its website, to educate its City Council, Planning Commission, and other officials and employees on RLUIPA, to retain records for inspection by the United States upon request, and to make periodic reports to the United States.

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

  • On September 30, 2015, the United States announced that under the settlement in United States v. Bank of America Corp., Citibank, NA , JPMorgan Chase & Co.,  Ally Financial, Inc. and  Wells Fargo & Co. (D.D.C.), commonly referred to as the National Mortgage Settlement (NMS), and an earlier settlement with Bank of America, 2,413 servicemembers and their co-borrowers are eligible to receive over $311 million for mortgage foreclosures that violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).  The foreclosures took place between January 1, 2006, and April 4, 2012 (the day the settlements were approved by the court).  Under the consent orders, the nation's five largest mortgage loan servicers conducted reviews to identify servicemembers who were foreclosed on either judicially or non-judicially in violation of the SCRA or who were unlawfully charged interest in excess of six percent on their mortgages.  As a result of these settlements, the majority of all foreclosures against servicemembers are now subject to court-ordered review.  Most foreclosure victims identified through these reviews are being compensated a minimum of $125,000 each plus any lost equity with interest, and victims of violations of the SCRA's six percent interest rate cap identified through these reviews will be compensated by the amount wrongfully charged in excess of six percent, plus triple the amount refunded, or $500, whichever is larger.  These agreements were incorporated into the historic mortgage servicer settlement between the United States and 49 state attorneys general and these five servicers, which has provided over $50 billion in relief based on the servicers' illegal mortgage loan servicing practices.  All five servicers agreed to numerous other measures, including SCRA training for employees and agents and developing SCRA policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the SCRA in the future.  The servicers are also repairing negative credit report entries related to the allegedly wrongful foreclosures and will not pursue any remaining amounts owed under the mortgages.  The court has extended the term of the agreements to October 4, 2016, in order to give the servicers time to complete the interest rate reviews and to locate and compensate all the servicemembers and their co-borrowers.
  • On May 28, 2015, the United States announced that under the consent order in United States v. Sallie Mae, Inc. (D. Del.), nearly 78,000 servicemembers would be receiving $60 million in compensation for having been charged excess interest on their student loans.  The complaint, filed on May 13, 2014, alleged that three separate owners or servicers of private and federally guaranteed student loans (collectively “Navient”) violated the SCRA when, from November 28, 2005 to the present, they failed to reduce to 6% the interest rates on pre-service loans held by servicemembers.  The consent order, which was entered on September 29, 2014, provides for a $60 million settlement fund to compensate aggrieved servicemembers and a $55,000 civil penalty, requires Navient to streamline the process by which servicemembers may obtain SCRA interest rate benefits and requires Navient to correct negative credit entries associated with interest overcharges and improper default judgments.  In addition, the consent decree has required the payment of a total of $33,613 to compensate the five servicemembers against whom Navient obtained improper default judgments.
  • On May 15, 2015, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Horoy, Inc. d/b/a Across Town Movers (S.D. Cal.).  The complaint, which was filed on March 16, 2015, alleged that the operators of a storage facility in San Diego County, California auctioned off the goods of a Master Chief Petty Officer and several other servicemembers without obtaining court orders, as required by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).  The consent order requires the defendants to pay $169,900 in damages: $150,000 to the Master Chief Petty Officer and a total of at least $19,900 to nine other servicemembers.  The order also requires defendants to check the Defense Department's military database and their own files to see if the customer is protected by the SCRA before auctioning off anyone's goods.  In cases where the customer is an SCRA-protected servicemember, the defendants are not permitted to conduct an auction without first obtaining a court order.  If that order is a default judgment, it must be issued only after defendants file a proper affidavit informing the court of the servicemember's active duty status.
  • On February 27, 2015, the court entered the consent order in United States v. Santander Consumer USA (N.D. Tex.).  The complaint, which was filed on February 25, 2015, alleged that Santander, which is one of the nation’s largest retail auto lenders, was responsible for the repossession, from January 2008 to February 2013, of 1,112 automobiles from protected servicemembers without obtaining court orders, in violation of Section 532 of the SCRA.  The parties have also identified 90 additional illegal repossessions occurring after February 2013.  The consent order requires Santander to pay $10.47 million to the victims of the 1,202 illegal repossessions, implement repossession and customer communication policies that will promote compliance with the SCRA, train its employees and agents on the policies, and pay a $55,000 civil penalty.
Updated July 7, 2016