Justice Department Settles with Colorado Apartment Complex for Discriminating Against Families with Children
The Justice Department announced today that the owners and manager of the Westland Apartments, a 28-unit apartment complex in Lakewood, Colorado, have agreed to pay $75,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging discrimination against families with children in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The settlement must still be approved by the U.S. District Court of the District of Colorado.
The department’s lawsuit, which was handled jointly by the department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Colorado, was filed on Nov. 9, 2015. The lawsuit alleges that Roger and Eileen Loecher, the owners of the Westland Apartments, and Miriam Yehudah, the resident property manager, implemented a policy of generally excluding families with children from living in the front building at Westland and generally restricting them to apartments in the rear building.
The lawsuit arose from a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by the Denver Metro Fair Housing Center (DMFHC), a non-profit organization that works to promote equal housing opportunities in the Denver metropolitan area. DMFHC sent testers posing as prospective renters to Westland to determine whether they were engaging in discriminatory practices in violation of the Fair Housing Act. As alleged in the complaint, DMFHC’s testing revealed that Westland’s property manager told prospective renters that families with children were generally placed in apartments in the rear building and did not offer prospective renters with children the opportunity to consider available apartments in the front building. DMFHC also filed a lawsuit against the defendants on Dec. 22, 2015. The cases were consolidated on March 3, 2016.
“Steering families with children to a certain part of an apartment complex limits their housing choices, perpetuates housing segregation and clearly violates federal law,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of the Fair Housing Act to ensure equal access to housing for all families.”
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to enforcing federal civil rights laws in Colorado,” said U.S. Attorney John F. Walsh of the District of Colorado. “Discrimination against families with children hurts Colorado children and is not only unjustified, it is illegal.”
Under the terms of the proposed settlement, the defendants must pay $25,000 to establish a settlement fund to compensate victims who were harmed by their conduct, $45,000 in monetary damages to DFMHC and $5,000 to the United States as a civil penalty. In addition, the proposed settlement prohibits the defendants from engaging in discrimination against families with children in the future. It also requires that they implement a nondiscrimination policy, establish new nondiscriminatory application and rental procedures, receive training on the Fair Housing Act and conduct monitoring and reporting to the department for three years.
Individuals who believe they may have been discriminated against at Westland because they resided with or intended to reside with children should contact the department toll-free at 1-800-896-7743, mailbox 92, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Westland is located at 9905 West 21st Avenue in Lakewood.
The 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 that they have experienced unlawful housing discrimination elsewhere can contact the department at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail email@example.com or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777.