Friday, July 19, 2013

Mobile Home Park Operator To Cough Up $35K To Settle Fair Housing Feds' Suit Alleging Refusal To Rent Lot To Black Family Was Based On Race, Forcing Them To Pick Up Their Recently-Purchased Home From Private Owner & Move It; Probe Triggered After Ex-Property Manager Tracked Victims Down & Spilled Beans On Outfit's Anti-African American Policy

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):

  • The Justice Department announced [] that Lawrence Properties Inc., Lawrence at Lakewood LLC, Michael Lawrence, and Williams Bounds have agreed to pay $35,000 to settle a lawsuit involving violations of the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants denied housing to an African American woman and her family because of race. The lawsuit also alleged that the owner and the regional manager of Lawrence Properties communicated to employees a company policy of not renting to African Americans.(1)

    Under the consent order, which was approved [] by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, the defendants will pay $25,000 to the family who was denied housing and $10,000 to the United States as a civil penalty. In addition, the order prohibits the defendants from discriminating in the future against prospective tenants based on race, mandates the implementation of a non-discriminatory rental policy, and requires the defendants and their employees to receive training on the Fair Housing Act.
  • The lawsuit, filed in September 2012, 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 lot at a mobile home park to the HUD complainant and her family due to a discriminatory policy against renting to African Americans. The suit also alleged that, as a result of the discriminatory policy, the defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination or denied rights protected by the Fair Housing Act to a group of persons.
For the Justice Department press release, see Justice Department Settles Race Discrimination Lawsuit Against Owners and Managers of Mobile Home Parks in Alabama and Georgia.

For the lawsuit, see U.S. v. Lawrence Properties, Inc., et al.

(1) According to the lawsuit, the alleged victim actually purchased, directly from a private homeowner, a mobile home located on a lot that the private owner rented from the mobile home park operator.

Apparently, the mobile home purchase was not contingent on obtaining approval from the park operator to take over the existing lease on the lot. After a bit of alleged jerking around by the park operator's employees, the alleged victim was advised that her rental application for the lot upon which her just-purchased mobile home sat on was rejected.

Consequently, not only was the alleged victim and her family unable to move into the mobile home, she was forced to pick up the mobile home and move it off the lot and out of the park, which she did, bearing the attendant costs of the move, according to the complaint.

By the way, these allegations came to light some seven months after the alleged victim's application was rejected.

According to the complaint, the then-property manager at the mobile home park, who now was no longer employed there, tracked down the alleged victim and informed her that her application to rent the lot had never been processed because the mobile home park owner did not want to rent to black people. Two other now-former employees have since come forward to assert that the company's policy was to limit rentals to black people, according to the complaint.

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