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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Justice Department Obtains $251,500 Settlement in Housing Discrimination Lawsuit Against Effingham, Illinois, Landlord

The Justice Department today announced an agreement with the owners and operators of Four Seasons Estates Mobile Home Park in Effingham, Illinois, to settle allegations of race and familial status discrimination.  Under the consent order, which must still be approved by the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Illinois, the defendants must pay $217,500 to victims of discrimination, who intervened in the lawsuit, to account for the harm they suffered and their attorneys’ fees, and an additional $34,000 to the government as a civil penalty.

The lawsuit alleged that the mobile home park’s manager, Barbara Crubaugh, refused to let an African-American individual be added as a resident at the park when he moved in with his white girlfriend and her uncle.  The lawsuit also alleged that while the African-American individual was staying at the mobile home park, he was subjected to harassment by the manager’s son, David Crubaugh.  The family moved out after the park threatened them with eviction if the African-American individual did not move out.  They contacted HOPE Fair Housing Center, an organization in Illinois that advocates for equal opportunity in housing, who in turn contacted the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Justice Department.  HUD referred the complaints to the Justice Department for further investigation as a potential pattern or practice of discrimination. 

The lawsuit also alleged discrimination on the basis of race based on fair housing testing conducted by the Department of Justice’s Fair Housing Testing Program.  The testing revealed that Barbara Crubaugh treated prospective residents differently based on their race by, for example, requiring African-American testers to fill out applications while not requiring white testers to do so, asking African-American testers if they had felonies but not asking the same of white testers, informing African-American testers that she would have to inspect their mobile home while not so informing white testers and quoting higher move-in costs to African-American testers.

Until this lawsuit was filed, there had been no African-American residents at the mobile home park since at least 2007, when Barbara Crubaugh became manager.

Additionally, the lawsuit alleged, and the defendants admitted, that they discriminated on the basis of familial status (having children under the age of 18) by prohibiting families with children from living on one of the four rows of lots at the mobile home park.

“Federal law guarantees everyone the right to housing on equal terms and the right to live free from harassment because of their race or color,” said head of the Civil Rights Division, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta.  “Settlements such as this one help ensure that all people can enjoy that right.”

“I am pleased that the operators of this mobile home park agreed to do the right thing,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Wigginton of the Southern District of Illinois.  “In this era, discrimination on the basis of race or family situation should be nothing more than a bad memory of times past.  A future free from discrimination will be a better future for all of the people of Southern Illinois.”

“Individuals and families looking for decent affordable housing shouldn't be treated differently just because of their race or because they have children,” said Assistant Secretary Gustavo Velasquez of HUD.  “It unfairly limits their housing options and it violates the law.  We will continue to work with our fair housing partners and the Justice Department to ensure that property owners and managers meet their obligation to comply with the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.”

In addition to monetary payments, the consent order requires defendants to implement a nondiscrimination policy, establish new nondiscriminatory application and rental procedures and undergo training on the Fair Housing Act.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.  More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt/.  Persons who believe they have experienced or witnessed unlawful housing discrimination may call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov, or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777.  More information about the Fair Housing Act can also be found at www.justice.gov/crt/housing or www.hud.gov/fairhousing.

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Updated August 4, 2015