Justice Department Settles Lawsuit Against Owners and Managers of Rental Homes in Mississippi for Discriminating Against Families with Children
The Justice Department announced today that Marcus Manly Magee III, Ina Magee, and their company, M.M. and S. Inc., have agreed to pay $27,000 to settle a lawsuit involving violations of the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants established and implemented an occupancy policy at 23 rental properties in Magee, Miss., that differentiated between the maximum number of adults and children who could reside in each home.
Under the consent order, which was approved today by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, the defendants must pay $20,000 to a family that was harmed by defendants’ discriminatory practices and $7,000 to the United States as a civil penalty. In addition, the order prohibits the defendants from discriminating against families with children in the future, mandates a non-discriminatory occupancy policy of two persons per bedroom, and requires the defendants to receive training on the Fair Housing Act.
“The Fair Housing Act ensures that families cannot be denied housing based on policies that discriminate against children,” said Eric Halperin, Special Counsel for Fair Lending in the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of fair housing laws that protect the rights of families with children.”
“This settlement ensures that prospective families seeking housing will be treated fairly under the law,” said Gregory K. Davis, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi. “We will continue to work with the Civil Rights Division to protect the rights of Mississippi citizens through enforcement of the Fair Housing Act.”
The lawsuit, filed in November 2011, arose as a result of a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). After HUD investigated the complaint, it issued a charge of discrimination and the matter was referred to the Justice Department. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent a three-bedroom home to a woman with four children because she had “too many children” under the defendants’ occupancy policy. The suit also alleged that by setting a lower maximum number of children than adults who could reside in each home, the defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination or denied rights protected by the Fair Housing Act to a group of persons.
“Housing providers have an obligation to ensure that their occupancy standards do not violate a family’s housing rights,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD and the Department of Justice are committed to taking action against anyone who unlawfully denies housing to families because of the number of children in their family.”
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.usdoj.gov/crt. Individuals who believe that they have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777.