Recent Accomplishments Of The Housing And Civil Enforcement Section

(Updated September 21, 2017)

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.

While we endeavor to ensure that the electronic copies of court documents available on this site are complete and accurate (apart from formatting changes necessitated by the conversion to HTML or PDF format), errors or omissions may occur. The official versions of court documents are the versions available from the court.

Fair Lending
Rental and Sales Discrimination based on Race, Color, National Origin, Familial Status and Religion
Sexual Harassment
Rental and Sales Discrimination based on Disability
Design and Construction
Discriminatory Land Use and Zoning
Public Accommodations (Title II)
Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

Fair Lending

  • On January 20, 2017, the court entered a consent order in United States v. JPMorgan Chase Bank (S.D.N.Y.). The complaint, which was filed on January 18, 2017 by the United States Attorney's Office, alleged that the defendant violated the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act when African American and Hispanic borrowers paid higher rates and fees for wholesale mortgage loans than similarly situated white borrowers. The consent order provides monetary relief of $53 million, including a civil penalty of $55,000.

  • On January 13, 2017, the United States filed a complaint in United States v. KleinBank (D. Minn.), alleging that the defendant violated the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act on the basis of race when it engaged in unlawful “redlining” of majority-minority neighborhoods in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. The complaint alleges that from 2010 to at least 2015, KleinBank structured its residential mortgage lending business in such a way as to avoid serving the credit needs of neighborhoods where a majority of residents are racial and ethnic minorities.

  • On January 3, 2017, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Union Savings Bank and Guardian Savings Bank (S.D. Ohio). The complaint, which was filed on December 28, 2016, alleged that two related banks engaged in redlining majority-black neighborhoods in the Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus, Ohio, as well as the Indianapolis, Indiana metropolitan statistical areas between at least 2010 and 2014 in their residential real estate lending businesses. The consent order includes a subsidy fund, as well as requirements including a credit needs assessment, community outreach, targeted outreach and advertising, and consumer repair and education provisions.
     
  • On October 12, 2016, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Charter Bank (S.D. Tex.). The complaint, which was filed on September 28, 2016, alleges that from 2009 to 2014, the bank discriminated on the basis of national origin in the pricing of vehicle-secured consumer loans to Hispanic consumers, in violation of the Equal Credit and Opportunity Act (ECOA). A vehicle-secured loan allows a customer to borrow from the bank by tapping the equity in a car the customer already owns. The consent order requires the bank to maintain uniform pricing policies and procedures, monitor its loans for potential disparities based on national origin, and provide fair lending training to its employees. The bank will also pay $165,820 to affected borrowers. This matter was referred by the FDIC.
     
  • On August 23, 2016, the United States filed a complaint in United States v. The Home Loan Auditors (N.D. Cal.) under the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. The complaint alleges that The Home Loan Auditors targeted Hispanic homeowners for the sale of expensive “forensic home loan audits” that were not necessary to securing loan modifications and that provided them with no benefit during the loan modification process, and imposed on these homeowners fees and payments for loan modification services that were grossly unfair and unfavorable.

  • On July 25, 2016, the court entered a consent order in United States and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. BancorpSouth Bank (N.D. Miss.). The complaint, which was filed on June 29, 2016, 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 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 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.
     

Rental and Sales Discrimination based on Race, Color, National Origin, Familial Status and Religion

  • On September 6, 2017, the parties entered a $95,000 settlement agreement resolving United States v. Appleby (W.D. Wash.).  The complaint, which was filed on March 3, 2017, alleged that the property manager and owners of rental properties in Edmonds, Washington, refused to rent to families with children and made written statements that their apartment properties were “adult” buildings.  The settlement provides for $35,000 for the HUD complainants, $35,000 for additional aggrieved persons, and a $25,000 civil money penalty, as well as non-monetary relief.
     
  • On July 20, 2017, the United States filed a complaint in United States v. MSM Brothers, Inc. d/b/a White Cliffs at Dover (D. N.H.), alleging that the defendants discriminated on the basis of familial status in violation of the Fair Housing Act by limiting the ability of families with children to rent anything other than first-floor apartments. The HUD complainant, a mother of an infant child, visited the complex to inquire about two-bedroom apartments, but was told that White Cliffs had a policy of placing families with children under the age of 10 in first floor units only, and that no first floor units were currently available; nor was there room on the waiting list for first floor units.

  • On July 6, 2017, the United States entered into a settlement agreement with J & R Associates, the owner and operator of the Royal Park Apartments, a 224-unit multi-family housing complex in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. The settlement resolves allegations that J & R Associates discriminated against tenants of South Asian descent in violation of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race and national origin. Under the terms of the agreement, J & R Associates will establish a $70,000 settlement fund to compensate victims of the discriminatory practices. J & R Associates also has agreed to train any new employees and to comply with the Fair Housing Act going forward. In a related matter resolved in 2015, J & R Associates agreed to make changes to its rental practices to resolve allegations that it had been steering families with children to certain buildings and units in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
     
  • On June 7, 2017, the United States, plaintiff/intervenor and defendants entered into a settlement agreement resolving United States v. Dominic Properties, LLC (D. Minn.), a Fair Housing Act referral from HUD. The complaint, which was filed on June 23, 2016 by the United States Attorney’s Office, alleges that the owners and managers of an apartment complex in Minneapolis, Minnesota violated the Fair Housing Act on the basis of familial status by enacting and enforcing overly restrictive rules limiting children's presence in the hallways and common areas. The settlement agreement requires the defendants to pay $15,000 to the plaintiff/intervenor and her minor children.
     
  • On June 2, 2017, the United States and the defendants entered into a settlement agreement resolving United States v. Pritchard (D. Kan.), a Fair Housing Act referral from HUD. The complaint, which was filed on April 10, 2017, alleged that the owners and manager of a 16-unit multifamily building in Wichita, Kansas terminated the lease of a tenant who asked to add her baby granddaughter to her lease and made statements indicating that they had a policy of not renting to households with children. Under the settlement agreement, the defendants will pay $25,000 in monetary damages to the family.
     
  • On February 23, 2017, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Edmunds (D. Minn.), a Fair Housing Act case filed by the United States Attorney’s Office. The complaint, which was filed on June 10, 2015, alleged that the owner and manager of a townhouse in Champlin, Minnesota discriminated on the basis of national origin by refusing to rent to a family of Hmong descent. The decree requires the payment of $5,000 to the family, record keeping and fair housing training. The case was referred to the Division after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) received a complaint, conducted an investigation and issued a charge of discrimination.

  • On December 12, 2016, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Goss (M.D. Fla.), a case based on evidence gathered by the Department’s Fair Housing Testing Program. The complaint, which was filed on September 30, 2016, alleges that the owner and managers of May Grove Village Mobile Home Park in Lakeland, Florida violated the Fair Housing Act by falsely informing African Americans who inquired about purchasing a mobile home in the park that no or few units were available for sale, while contemporaneously showing and offering more available mobile homes to similarly-situated white persons. The complaint also alleges that defendants quoted prospective African American purchasers higher prices and worse financial terms than similarly situated white purchasers. The consent order requires the defendants to adopt a non-discrimination policy, attend training, and pay $35,000 in civil penalties.
     
  • On November 2, 2016, the United States Attorney’s Office filed a complaint in United States v. Kelly (D.S.D.), alleging that the owner of a three-unit residential property in Rapid City, South Dakota violated the Fair Housing Act on the basis of sex and familial status by refusing to rent a unit to a woman and her 17-year old daughter because she would be concerned about any woman being alone there and she had “always rented to bachelors.” The case was referred to the Division after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) received a complaint, conducted an investigation, and issued a charge of discrimination.
     
  • On October 18, 2016, the United States filed a statement of interest in Fortune Society, Inc. v. Sandcastle Towers Housing Development Fund Corp. (E.D.N.Y.). In this case, an organization that helps formerly incarcerated individuals find housing is challenging the practices of an affordable rental apartment complex with 917 units in Far Rockaway, Queens. The statement of interest aims to assist the court in evaluating whether a housing provider’s policy that considers criminal records in an application process produces unlawful discriminatory effects, in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Although the FHA does not forbid housing providers from considering applicants’ criminal records, the brief explains that “categorical prohibitions that do not consider when the conviction occurred, what the underlying conduct entailed, or what the convicted person has done since then run a substantial risk of having a disparate impact based on race or national origin.” The brief also explains that when a housing provider has a criminal record check policy with a disparate impact, the housing provider must “prove with evidence – and not just by invoking generalized concerns about safety – that the ban is necessary.” Even then, the policy will still violate the FHA if there is a less discriminatory alternative.
     
  • On October 6, 2016, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Housing Authority of Bossier City (W.D. La.). The complaint, which was filed on September 30, 2016, alleges that the Housing Authority of Bossier City violated the Fair Housing Act by segregating elderly residents in its public housing complexes by race and segregating non-elderly residents in its public housing complexes due to disability. In the consent decree, the Housing Authority agrees to injunctive relief and to pay $120,000 to compensate residents who were victims of discrimination.
     
  • On October 3, 2016, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Kormanik (W.D. Pa.). The complaint, which was filed on September 28, 2016, alleges that defendants discriminated against families with children by prohibiting them from renting one- and two-bedroom units, in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Under the consent order, Kormanik and Kinamrok will establish a settlement fund of $20,000 to compensate victims and pay a $10,000 civil penalty to the United States. The allegations were based on evidence generated by the Division’s Fair Housing Testing Program.
     
  • On October 2, 2016, the court entered a consent order in United States v. First Federal Bank of Florida (M.D. Fla.). The complaint, which was filed on September 9, 2016 by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, alleges that the bank discriminated on the basis of sex and familial status by requiring two women on maternity leave to return to work before closing on a loan, which caused them to shorten their maternity leave. The case was referred to the Division after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) received complaints, conducted an investigation, and issued a charge of discrimination.
     

Sexual Harassment

  • On September 14, 2017, the United States entered a settlement agreement resolving United States v. Housing Authority of the City of Anderson (AHA) (S.D. Ind.).  The complaint, also filed on September 14, 2017, alleges that AHA engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination and/or denial of rights against residents of its public housing units on the basis of sex and disability.  Under the settlement agreement, AHA agreed to pay $70,000 to compensate the seven victims of discrimination identified during the Division’s investigation.
     

  • On July 13, 2017, the United States filed a complaint in United States v. Hatfield (W.D.N.C.), alleging that Robert N. Hatfield, who rents, sells, and finances homes in Wilkes County, North Carolina, sexually harassed actual and prospective female residents and borrowers, in violation of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. The suit alleges that Hatfield’s conduct has included making unwelcome sexual comments and advances, engaging in unwanted sexual touching and groping, offering tangible housing benefits in exchange for sex acts, and taking or threatening to take adverse housing actions against women who object to his harassment.
     

  • On July 10, 2017, the court entered a consent decree resolving United States v. Walden (N.D. W. Va.), a Fair Housing Act lawsuit. The complaint, which was filed on March 16, 2016, alleged sexual harassment and retaliation by the owners and managers of over 70 residential rental properties in the Morgantown, West Virginia area. One of the defendants, Gary Walden, has served time in prison after pleading guilty to charges related to his sexual harassment of his tenants, and he repeatedly violated a prior state court consent decree prohibiting him from sexually harassing his tenants. The consent decree provides for the payment of $500,000 to victims and $100,000 in civil penalties and prohibits Gary Walden from participating in the management of the residential rental properties.
     
  • On December 15, 2016, the court entered a consent decree in United States, et al. v. Wygul  (W.D. Tenn.). The complaint, which was filed on November 10, 2014, alleges that the defendant engaged in quid pro quo and hostile environment sexual harassment of the plaintiff-intervenor over a three-month period by, among other things, bombarding her with telephone text messages demanding sexually-provocative photographs and requests that she pose nude for him, offering to reduce or waive her rent if she acquiesced, and evicting her when she refused. Under the consent decree, the defendant is required to pay $15,000 in damages to the plaintiff-intervenor and exit the real estate rental business by a date certain.
     
  • On August 31, 2016, the United States filed a complaint in United States v. Webb (E.D. Mo.), alleging that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act when Hezekiah Webb made unwanted sexual advances and sexually explicit comments to a tenant, propositioned her for sex in exchange for reduced rent, attempted to touch her breast, and ultimately evicted her after she rebuffed his sexual advances, claiming that she gambled and made too much noise at the six-unit apartment. The complaint also alleges that Hezekiah Webb sexually harassed other tenants in a similar fashion.

  • On August 12, 2016, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Encore Management Company, Inc. (S.D. W. Va.). The complaint, which was filed on November 14, 2014, alleges sexual harassment of tenants at Perkins Parke Apartments in Cross Lanes, West Virginia. The consent order requires the payment of $110,000 to seven adult and four minor victims and a $10,000 civil penalty.

  • 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.. 
     

  Rental and Sales Discrimination based on Disability

  • On September 14, 2017, the United States entered a settlement agreement resolving United States v. Housing Authority of the City of Anderson (AHA) (S.D. Ind.).  The complaint, also filed on September 14, 2017, alleges that AHA engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination and/or denial of rights against residents of its public housing units on the basis of sex and disability.  Under the settlement agreement, AHA agreed to pay $70,000 to compensate the seven victims of discrimination identified during the Division’s investigation.
     
  • On September 12, 2017, the United States Attorney’s Office entered into a settlement agreement resolving United States & Poeschel v. Garden Grove, LLC (D. Minn.).  The complaint, which was filed on October 13, 2016, alleges that the owner and manager of an apartment complex in New Brighton, Minnesota violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to allow plaintiff-intervenor Jane Poeschel to keep an emotional assistance dog.  Under the settlement agreement, the defendants agree to pay Ms. Poeschel $30,000 in damages and attorney’s fees and to adopt a new reasonable accommodation policy.
     
  • On July 20, 2017, the court entered a stipulation and order of settlement and dismissal based on a settlement agreement resolving United States v. 505 Central Ave. (S.D.N.Y.), a Fair Housing Act case. The lawsuit, filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on January 18, 2017, alleges that a housing cooperative and management company discriminated against a man with disabilities when it refused a reasonable accommodation to allow him to purchase a coop unit at Thompkins Manor using a special needs trust. Under the settlement agreement, the defendants must pay a total of $125,000, including compensatory damages and attorney’s fees to the complainant and civil penalties to the United States.

     

  • On July 18, 2017, the United States Attorney’s Office entered into a settlement agreement resolving United States v. Trump Village Section IV Inc. (E.D.N.Y.) a Fair Housing Act case. The complaint, which was filed on December 23, 2015, alleged that a housing cooperative in Brooklyn, New York refused to allow three residents, including an Army combat veteran with PTSD, to live with their emotional support dogs, and then retaliated against them for exercising their fair housing rights. The settlement agreement provides a total of $40,000 to the three families and a $10,000 civil penalty.

  • On March 6, 2017, the United States Attorney’s Office filed a complaint in United States v. VP2, LLC (D. Minn.), a Fair Housing Act case alleging denial of a reasonable accommodation request to allow the complainants to keep an assistance animal at an extended-stay hotel. The case was referred to the Division after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) received a complaint, conducted an investigation, and issued a charge of discrimination.

     

  • On March 2, 2017, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Trumbull Housing Authority (N.D. Ohio). The complaint, which was filed on January 13, 2017, by the United States Attorney’s Office, alleged that that defendant violated the Fair Housing Act on the basis of disability when it refused to make a reasonable accommodation to its practice of not approving the transfer of the Section 8 subsidy to a different unit for at least a year after the unit has passed inspection. The consent order provides for injunctive relief. The complainants have intervened and will pursue their claims for monetary relief separately. The case was referred to the Division after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) received a complaint, conducted an investigation, and issued a charge of discrimination.

     

  • On February 24, 2017, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Friedman Residence, LLC (S.D.N.Y.). The complaint, which was filed on January 18, 2017, by the United States Attorney's Office, alleged that a supportive shared housing residence for senior citizens, working professionals and persons living with HIV/AIDS in New York City violated the Fair Housing Act on the basis of disability by refusing to allow a resident with a psychiatric disability to live with an emotional support dog in his unit. The consent decree requires the defendants to pay $20,000 in damages to the HUD complainant and to allow him to keep his assistance animal. It also requires the adoption of new reasonable accommodation policies. The case was referred to the Division after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) received a complaint, conducted an investigation and issued a charge of discrimination.

  • On January 18, 2017, the United States Attorney's Office filed a complaint in United States v. Kips Bay Towers Condominium, Inc. (S.D.N.Y.), alleging that a condominium board in New York City violated the Fair Housing Act on the basis of disability by refusing to allow several residents with psychiatric disabilities to live with emotional support dogs in their units. The case was referred to the Division after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) received a complaint, conducted an investigation and issued a charge of discrimination.

     

  • On December 27, 2016, the court denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment in Arnal v. Aspen View Condo. Ass’n (D. Colo.), a lawsuit alleging discrimination on the basis of disability and retaliation under the Fair Housing Act. The plaintiff, the owner of a condominium unit, alleges that his condominium association improperly denied a reasonable accommodation to its “no dogs” policy to allow his tenant to keep a service dog that assisted her with her epilepsy, and that the condo association retaliated against him for allowing the tenant to keep the dog by issuing fines. On July 15, 2016, he United States had filed a statement of interest, arguing that a plaintiff may maintain a retaliation claim even in the absence of an underlying discrimination claim and that evidence that defendants imposed fines on a unit owner for allowing a tenant the requested accommodation supported a prima facie case of retaliation under the Fair Housing Act. The court ruled, consistent with the statement of interest, that plaintiff’s retaliation claim was not dependent upon his reasonable accommodation claim and that a reasonable jury could conclude that the fines were imposed in retaliation for allowing his tenant to live in the condo unit with her dog and assisting his tenant in exercising her fair housing rights.
     
  • On December 7, 2016, the United States Attorney’s Office filed a complaint in United States v. 111 East 88th Partners (S.D.N.Y.), alleging that defendant discriminated on the basis of disability in violation of the Fair Housing Act by refusing to allow a resident with disabilities to live with an emotional support dog in his unit. The complaint also alleges that defendant coerced and intimidated complainant and interfered with his ability to obtain a reasonable accommodation. The case was referred to the Division after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) received a complaint, conducted an investigation and issued a charge of discrimination.
     
  • On November 10, 2016, the United States Attorney’s Office filed a complaint in United States v. Park City Communities (f.k.a. Bridgeport Housing Authority) (D. Conn.), alleging that the Housing Authority violated the Fair Housing Act on the basis of disability by refusing to grant the HUD complainant’s request for a reasonable accommodation to be transferred to a different unit because of her disability. The case was referred to the Division after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) received a complaint, conducted an investigation, and issued a charge of discrimination.
     
  • On September 28, 2016, the court entered a consent order in United States v. NALS Apartment Homes, LLC (D. Utah). The complaint, which was filed on September 26, 2016, alleges that the defendants required certain tenants with disabilities who sought to live with assistance animals to have a healthcare provider complete a “prescription form” suggesting that the healthcare provider may be held responsible for any property damage or physical injury that the assistance animal may cause. The defendants did not require tenants without disabilities who had pets to have a third party assume liability for their animals. Under the consent order, the defendants are required to pay $20,000 to a former tenant and her seven-year-old son with autism who were denied permission to keep the child’s assistance animal after the child’s doctor refused to sign a form suggesting he could be liable for damages caused by the animal. The defendants are also required to establish a $25,000 settlement fund to compensate any additional individuals who were harmed by their conduct. The case was referred to the Division after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) received complaints from both former tenants and Utah’s Disability Law Center (DLC), conducted an investigation, and issued a charge of discrimination.
     
  • On September 20, 2016, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. Kent State University (N.D. Ohio). The complaint, filed on September 16, 2014, and amended on December 12, 2014, alleged that the university violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to grant a reasonable accommodation in university housing for a student and her husband who requested to live with an assistance animal. The consent decree provides for $130,000 for the students and a local fair housing organization involved in the case, a $15,000 payment to the United States, and injunctive relief requiring the University to implement a policy on reasonable accommodations for assistance animals, as well as training and regular reporting. The case was referred to the Department after HUD received a complaint, conducted an investigation, and issued a charge of discrimination.
     

Design and Construction

  • On May 24, 2017, the court entered a final consent decree in United States v. Albanese Organization, Inc. (S.D.N.Y.). The complaint, which was filed on January 18, 2017, alleges that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to design and construct The Verdesian, an apartment building in New York City, so as to be accessible to persons with disabilities. The consent order, together with an earlier consent decree from February 2017, provides for compliance surveys for two additional properties developed by the defendants, retrofits of non-compliant features, payments of $190,000-$515,000 to aggrieved persons, and a $45,000 civil penalty.
     
  • On March 1, 2017, the United States Attorney’s Office filed a complaint in United States v. Bedford Development LLC (S.D.N.Y.), alleging that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act when they failed to design and construct Sutton Manor condominium in Mount Kisco, New York, so as to be accessible to persons with disabilities. The case was referred to DOJ after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) received several complaints, conducted an investigation and issued a charge of discrimination.
     
  • On January 17, 2017, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed a complaint in United States v. Atlantic Development Group, LLC (S.D.N.Y.), against the designers and developers of 33 West End Avenue, 2 Cooper, and other properties in New York City and Westchester County. The complaint alleges that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to design and construct these properties so as to be accessible to persons with disabilities.
     
  • On January 13, 2017, the United States Attorney’s Office filed a complaint in United States v. Equity Residential (S.D.N.Y.), against the designers and developers of 170 Amsterdam Avenue, a large rental complex in Manhattan that was completed in 2015. The complaint alleges that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to design and construct this property so as to be accessible to persons with disabilities. The complaint also alleges that defendants are actively involved in designing and constructing several other rental buildings, including in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Seattle. The United States seeks a court order requiring defendants to make appropriate retrofits at 170 Amsterdam Avenue and to take steps necessary to ensure that the rental buildings defendants are currently developing will be designed and constructed in compliance with the FHA’s accessibility requirements.
     
  • On January 12, 2017, the court entered a partial consent decree with the developer defendant in United States v. Silverstein Properties, Inc. (S.D.N.Y.). The complaint, which was filed on January 5, 2017, alleged the designers and developers of One River Place and Silver Towers in New York City violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to design and construct these properties so as to be accessible to persons with disabilities. The partial consent decree provides for standard injunctive relief, coverage of an additional property developed by the defendants, retrofits of non-compliant features, payments of $480,000-$960,000 to aggrieved persons and a $50,000 civil penalty. The defendants also include; River Place I, LLC, River Place II Holdings, LLC and Costas Kondylis and Partners, LLP.
     

  • On December 23, 2016, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed a complaint in United States v. Strulovitch (S.D.N.Y.), alleging that the defendant violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to design and construct properties in the Bronx and Maybrook so that they were accessible and usable by persons with disabilities.
     
  • On December 2, 2016, the court entered a final consent order in United States v. Dawn Properties, Inc. (S.D. Miss.), resolving the United States’ claims against the Mississippi-based developers Ike W. Thrash, Dawn Properties, Inc., Southern Cross Construction Company, Inc. and other affiliated companies. The complaint, which was filed on May 23, 2014 and amended on June 23, 2016, alleged the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by building apartment complexes that were inaccessible to persons with disabilities. As part of the settlement, the defendants agreed to make substantial retrofits to remove accessibility barriers at the six complexes, which have nearly 500 covered units. The consent order also requires the defendants to pay $250,000 to 25 identified aggrieved persons, pay $100,000 in civil penalties, and undergo training. On December 18, 2014, November 3, 2015, September 2, 2016, and November 30, 2016, the court entered consent orders with Rule 19 Defendants 14510 Lemoyne Boulevard, LLC, Summer Miss, LLC, Belmont RS Apartments, LLC and Lexington Mill Mississippi Owner, LLC. The pattern or practice case was referred by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
     
  • On October 31, 2016, the Division filed a complaint in United States v. Riexinger (E.D. Wash.), alleging that the defendants designed and constructed the Ashlynn Estates, a three building dormitory style property near Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington, without complying with the Fair Housing Act’s accessibility requirements. The complaint names the owners of the property as well as the entity that designed and constructed the buildings.
     
  • On October 28, 2016, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Nistler (D. Mont) (Nistler II). The complaint, which was filed on September 30, 2016, alleges that the defendants designed and constructed 31 properties in the Helena area, for a total of 64 covered units, without the required accessible features. The consent order requires the defendants to pay $20,000 to establish a settlement fund, as well as 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 kitchens and toilets in bathrooms to provide sufficient room for wheelchair users, and reducing door threshold heights. The settlement also requires the defendants to construct 16 “super-accessible” units in Helena, Montana.
     
  • On September 19, 2016, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed a complaint in United States v. Ginsburg Development, LLC (S.D.N.Y.), alleging that the defendant violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to design and construct two properties in Rockland County so that they were accessible and usable by persons with disabilities. In connection with that lawsuit, the parties have agreed to and the court has entered a preliminary injunction to make four Westchester rental complexes currently under development accessible.. 
     

Discriminatory Land Use and Zoning

  • On June 29, 2017, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. City of Jacksonville (M.D. Fla.). The complaint, which was filed on December 20, 2016, alleged that the City violated the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act when it refused to allow the development of a 12-unit apartment building to create “permanent supportive housing” for “chronically homeless” veterans, in response to intense community pressure based on stereotypes about prospective residents with disabilities. Under the consent decree, the City has amended its zoning code, including removing restrictions that apply to housing for persons with disabilities and implementing a reasonable accommodation policy. The City has also agreed to rescind the written interpretation that prevented Ability Housing from providing the housing at issue, designate a fair housing compliance officer, provide Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act training for City employees, and pay a $25,000 civil penalty to the government. In a separate settlement the City agreed to pay $400,000 to Ability Housing, a non-profit affordable housing provider, and $25,000 to Disability Rights Florida, an advocate for people with disabilities, and to establish a $1.5 million grant to develop permanent supportive housing in the City for people with disabilities.
     
  • On June 26, 2017, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. City of Jackson (S.D. Miss.). The complaint, which was filed on September 30, 2016, alleged that the city discriminated on the basis of disability in violation of the Fair Housing Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act by requiring the operator of a group home to close the home and the residents to relocate. The consent decree requires the city to pay $100,000 to the owner of Urban Rehab, Inc., $35,000 to the department as a civil penalty, and $50,000 to a settlement fund that will compensate other victims. The city also agreed to revise its zoning code to permit persons in recovery to reside in all residential zones and to ease other restrictions on group homes for people with disabilities.

  • On April 18, 2017, the court in United States v. Town of Colorado City (D. Ariz.) issued an order adopting the jury’s findings that the Town of Colorado City and the City of Hildale engaged in a decades-long pattern or practice of police misconduct and housing discrimination. The court ordered expansive relief, including requiring the defendants to revise the policies of the Marshal’s Office, adopt new internal affairs and hiring practices, hire two new officers, hire both a police-practices consultant and a mentor for the Chief of Police, conduct training on civil rights laws, revise numerous municipal policies and procedures, and subdivide the land in Colorado City. The court will appoint a monitor to track compliance and report to the Department of Justice and the court. On April 19, 2016, the court entered a settlement agreement which resolved 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 on the basis of religion 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. In its advisory verdict, the jury found 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 Fourteenth Amendment and the establishment clause; and subjected individuals to unlawful stops, seizures and arrests in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The complaint, which was filed on June 21, 2012, alleged a pattern or practice of police misconduct and violations of the Fair Housing Act. The adjoining towns of Colorado City and Hildale are located on the border of Arizona and Utah and are populated primarily by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS Church). The FLDS Church is not affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is the first lawsuit by the Justice Department to include claims under both the Fair Housing Act and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.

  • On March 23, 2017, the court issued an order denying the defendant’s motion for summary judgment in Southwest Key Programs, Inc. v. City of Escondido (S.D. Cal.), finding that there were triable issues as to whether the group home at issue constitutes a dwelling under the Fair Housing Act. The United States had filed a statement of interest in this case on November 3, 2016, to address the question whether the protections of the Fair Housing Act extend to group homes for unaccompanied children in the care and custody of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The plaintiff in the case sought to operate such a home in the City of Escondido and alleges that the city discriminated on the basis of race and national origin when it denied the request for a conditional use permit to operate the group home. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing, among other things, that the FHA does not apply. The United States’ statement of interest urged the court to find that the proposed group home is a “dwelling” covered by the Fair Housing Act and is neither a jail nor a detention facility.

  • On November 23, 2016, the United States filed a complaint in United States v. Village of Tinley Park, Illinois (N.D. Ill.), alleging that village engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful discrimination and denied rights to a group of persons on the basis of race and color in violation of the Fair Housing Act when it refused to permit the construction of an affordable housing project in response to racially motivated public opposition.
     
  • On June 16, 2016, the court entered a consent decree in United States 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 United States 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 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 November 10, 2016, we issued a Joint Statement on State and Local Land Use Laws and Practices and the Application of the Fair Housing Act with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The guidance is designed to help state and local governments better understand how to comply with the FHA when making zoning and land use decisions as well as to help members of the public understand their rights under the FHA. The guidance is an update of previous guidance issued in the Joint Statement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice on Group Homes, Local Land Use and the Fair Housing Act on Aug. 18, 1999.

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 September 28, 2016, the United States filed a complaint in United States v. Ayman Jarrah and Land Guardian, Inc. formerly d/b/a Gaslamp, currently d/b/a 360 Midtown (S.D. Tex.), alleging a pattern or practice of discrimination based on race, color and national origin by the owner and operator of a bar/restaurant located in Houston, Texas. The complaint alleges that defendants implemented discriminatory admission practices to discourage and/or deny African American, Hispanic and Asian-American prospective patrons entrance to Gaslamp (now operating as 360 Midtown). The complaint further alleges that defendant Jarrah used racial slurs when explicitly instructing employees to exclude African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American patrons from the bar.
     
  • 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 (RLUIPA)

  • On September 5, 2017, the United States filed a statement of interest in Garden State Islamic Center (GSIC) v. City of Vineland (D. N.J.), a RLUIPA action brought by GSIC challenging the city’s refusal to grant a certificate of occupancy for a place of worship on the basis that GSIC did not satisfy sewage regulation requirements.  The United States did not take a position on whether the city has violated RLUIPA, but only weighed in against the city’s assertion that GSIC’s complaint should be dismissed on the ground that the sewage regulation does not constitute a “land use regulation” and therefore is not covered by RLUIPA.  The United States contends that the application of the sewage regulation is covered by RLUIPA.
     
  • On September 1, 2017, the parties entered a settlement agreement in United States v. Bensalem Township (E.D. Pa.).  As part of the agreement, Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania will permit the Bensalem Masjid, a Muslim nonprofit religious organization, to use its property to build a mosque. The Township also agreed to review and amend its zoning ordinance to comply with the requirements of RLUIPA and to advise its officials and employees about the requirements of RLUIPA, among other remedial measures. The complaint, which was filed on July 21, 2016, alleged that the Township violated the substantial burden, equal terms, nondiscrimination, and unreasonable limitations provisions of RLUIPA by denying the Bensalem Masjid a use variance to build a mosque on its property.
     
  • On June 28, 2017, the court denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction in Youkhanna v. Sterling Heights (E.D. Mich.). The plaintiffs argued that the City did not have authority to enter into a settlement agreement unless it admitted liability or a court made a finding that it violated federal law. The United States’ statement of interest, filed on April 13, 2017, argued that the AICC’s original application fit the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance, making the City free to agree to a settlement that approved a largely similar place of worship through a settlement agreement, without admitting liability or a court finding a violation of federal law. On March 1, 2017, the court entered a consent order in United States v. City of Sterling Heights (E.D. Mich.). The complaint, which was filed on December 15, 2016, alleged that the City violated RLUIPA when it denied the American Islamic Community Center’s special land use application to build a mosque in the City. The complaint also alleged that the denial imposed a substantial burden on the religious exercise of the community intending to build a mosque without a compelling governmental justification pursued through the least restrictive means and discriminated against the community based on religion or religious denomination. The consent order requires the city to permit the AICC to construct a mosque in the city. The city has also agreed to publicize its non-discrimination policies and practices, undergo training on the requirements of RLUIPA, and report periodically to the Justice Department.
     
  • On June 6, 2017, the United States entered into a settlement agreement resolving the United States’ claims in United States v. City of Des Plaines (N.D. Ill.) that it violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) by denying a rezoning request by an Islamic group to use a vacant office building as a place of worship. The United States’ complaint, which was filed on September 30, 2015, alleged substantial burden, unequal terms, and discrimination. The settlement agreement requires the City to obtain training, to provide notice to the public that it adheres to RLUIPA, establishes a RLUIPA complaint process, and places limitations on the discretion the City can exercise in its consideration of religious land use applications. In February 2017, the court ruled that the City misapplied its parking regulations to impose heightened parking requirements on the Islamic group that were not imposed on non-Muslim groups, and that the City did not use the least restrictive means in addressing purported concerns with the group’s rezoning request.
     
  • On May 30, 2017, the United States entered into an agreement resolving United States v. Bernards Township (D. N.J.). The complaint, which was filed on November 22, 2016, alleged that Bernards Township’s denial of the proposal by the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge (“ISBR”) to build a mosque where places of worship were permitted to locate discriminated against the ISBR based on its religion and the religion of its members, applied standards and procedures on the ISBR that it had not applied to other religious and non-religious assemblies in the past, and, imposed a substantial burden on the ISBR’s religious exercise. The complaint also alleged that the township violated RLUIPA by amending its zoning ordinance in a manner that imposes unreasonable limitations on religious assemblies. Under the agreement, Bernards Township has agreed to approve the site development plan for the mosque, and modify its zoning code to permit houses of worship to be built on four acre lots or more, subject to the United States’ approval for additional criteria. An agreement was also reached with the private plaintiff to resolve an independent but related suit. Pursuant to that agreement, the Townhship has agreed to pay $3.5 million in damages.
     
  • On November 23, 2016, the court entered a consent decree in United States v. City of Port Jervis (S.D.N.Y.). The complaint, which was filed by the United States Attorney’s Office on November 21, 2016, alleged that the City of Port Jervis violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) when it changed its zoning code to ban places of worship in two zoning districts where they were previously allowed as of right. The zoning change was made after the Goodwill Evangelical Presbyterian Church entered into a contract to purchase property within one of those zones to use as a church. Under the consent decree, the city is required to amend its zoning laws and regulations to repeal the ban on the use of property for places of worship in the two zoning districts at issue, and its zoning laws may not treat religious assemblies or institutions on less than equal terms with nonreligious assemblies or institutions, nor substantially burden the ability to use property as a place of worship. The consent decree also requires the city to comply with RLUIPA and general nondiscrimination provisions; to notify the public and city officials of the consent decree; to provide training on the requirements of RLUIPA to certain city officials and officers; and to comply with recordkeeping, notice, and inspection requirements.

  • On October 14, 2016, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Pittsfield Charter Township (E.D. Mich.). The complaint, which was filed on October 26, 2015, alleged the Township’s denial of a zoning amendment to permit construction of an Islamic school imposed a substantial burden on the religious exercise of the school without a compelling governmental justification pursued through the least restrictive means. The consent order requires the Township to allow construction of the Islamic school and provides for other injunctive relief, such as training, notice, and reporting.
    .

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

  • On September 18, 2017, the United States filed a complaint and executed a settlement agreement in United States v. CitiFinancial Credit Co. (N.D. Tex.). The complaint alleged that Citi repossessed 164 automobiles between 2007 and 2010 from protected servicemembers without first obtaining court orders, in violation of Section 3952 of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).  The settlement agreement requires Citi to pay $907,000 in compensation to the servicemembers whose cars were illegally repossessed and to remove the repossessions from the servicemembers’ credit reports.
     
  • On July 6, 2017, the United States entered into a settlement agreement resolving United States v. COPOCO Community Credit Union (E.D. Mich.). The complaint, which was filed on July 26, 2016, alleged that the credit union violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act by repossessing protected servicemembers’ motor vehicles without obtaining the necessary court orders. On January 5, 2017, the court denied COPOCO's motion to dismiss. The settlement agreement requires COPOCO to provide $10,000 in compensation to each of three servicemembers whose motor vehicles COPOCO unlawfully repossessed and $7,500 to one servicemember who faced an unlawful repossession but had his vehicle returned. The settlement agreement also requires COPOCO to implement SCRA policies to be approved by the United States, report to the United States on SCRA compliance, and pay a civil penalty of $5,000.
     

  • On June 16, 2017, the parties entered into a settlement agreement in United States v. Crowe (M.D. Ala.). The complaint, filed on June 13, 2017, alleged that an Alabama landlord violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act ("SCRA") when she refused to return any portion of the security deposit to a United States Air Force Major after he lawfully terminated his lease early upon receipt of military orders. The complaint also alleged that the landlord claimed damages to the property that were in excess of what could appropriately be charged to the tenant. Under the agreement, Ms. Michele Crowe must pay a total of $1,900 in damages ($1,425 to the servicemember and a $475 civil penalty to the United States), adopt lease language that complies with the SCRA, report to the United States on SCRA compliance, and refrain from engaging in future SCRA violations. This matter was referred to the Department by the Chief of Community Legal Services, Legal Issues Division, United States Air Force.
     
  • On November 1, 2016, the court entered a consent order in United States v. San Diego Family Housing, LLC (S.D. Cal.). The complaint, which was filed by the United States Attorney’s Office on August 10, 2016, alleged that the owner and operator of dozens of on-base and off-base military housing communities throughout Southern California obtained default eviction judgments against active duty servicemembers without filing proper affidavits of military service, as required by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The consent order requires the payment of $140,000 in damages to four servicemembers ($35,000 each) and a $60,000 civil penalty, for a total of $200,000. The consent order also requires the defendants to vacate the eviction judgments, forgive any deficiency balances, and ask the credit bureaus to remove the evictions from the servicemembers’ credit reports. In the future, the defendants will have to check the Department of Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) database and file a proper affidavit of military service before seeking a default judgment against any tenant in an eviction action.
     
  • On October 4, 2016, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., d/b/a Wells Fargo Dealer Services, Inc. (C.D. Cal.). The complaint, which was filed on September 29, 2016, alleges that Wells Fargo repossessed over 400 motor vehicles between January 1, 2008 and July 1, 2015 from protected servicemembers without obtaining court orders, in violation of SCRA Section 3952. The consent order requires Wells to provide over $4 million in compensation to the victims of illegal repossessions, remove the repossessions from their credit reports, pay a $60,000 civil penalty and institute new procedures that will prevent unlawful repossessions in the future.
     
  • On August 18, 2016, the court entered a consent order in United States v. HSBC Auto Finance (N.D. Ill.). The complaint, which was filed on August 8, 2016, alleges that HSBC is responsible for the repossession of 75 automobiles between 2008 and 2010 from protected servicemembers without obtaining court orders, in violation of SCRA Section 3952. The consent order requires HSBC to provide $434,500 in compensation to the victims of illegal repossessions.
     
  • 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 26, 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 September 21, 2017