Springfield Landlord Found Liable of Housing Discrimination
BOSTON – A Springfield landlord was found liable by a federal jury on Friday, Oct. 24, 2017, of discriminating against a family in violation of the Fair Housing Act (“Act”).
John DeRaffele, of New Rochelle, N.Y., was found liable following a five-day jury trial of discrimination based on familial status under the Fair Housing Act. The Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. DeRaffele violated the Act by including an addendum to leases that prospective renters could not rent apartments if they had minor children, were pregnant, or became pregnant. Furthermore, in 2015, DeRaffele refused to rent an apartment to a Springfield family because they had a child under six years of age and because the wife was pregnant. When the couple filed a complaint with state authorities, DeRaffele retaliated by suing the couple in federal court alleging $1 million in damages.
The jury found that DeRaffele interfered with the family’s fair housing rights by discriminating based on familial status and engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against prospective tenants based on their familial status. The jury awarded $8,500 in damages to the family, and imposed a $35,000 civil penalty for the pattern and practice discrimination.
Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb and Susan Forward, Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, New England Office made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer A. Serafyn, Chief of Weinreb’s Civil Rights Unit, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Dorchak, also of the Civil Rights Unit, handled the case.
The Civil Rights Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office was established in 2015 with the mission of enhancing federal civil rights enforcement. For more information on the Office’s civil rights efforts, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-ma/civil-rights.