Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that the owner and manager of an apartment company in Wisconsin agreed to pay $57,500 to resolve a Fair Housing Act (FHA) lawsuit filed by the government alleging race discrimination.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in October 2011, alleged that the community manager told prospective African-American residents that units were not available when they really were, while telling potential white renters that there were apartments available.

The complaint noted that as far back as 2009 and 2010 the community manager told African Americans interested in the property that there were no open units, notwithstanding the property had posted a sign which was specifically advertising vacant apartments.  The African Americans were suspicious and asked a white friend to then contact the property.  Following that visit, the couple reported their experience to a local fair housing group.  The fair housing agency conducted testing at the property which, according to the complaint, confirmed that prospective African Americans residents were being told a different story than were potential white renters.

After HUD issued a charge of discrimination, the case was referred to DOJ.  Pursuant to the terms of the settlement, which is still subject to Court approval, the defendants will pay the complainants $47,500 as well as pay a $10,000 civil penalty to the United States.  The defendants will also develop non-discrimination housing policies and attend fair housing training.  

I have reported on these cases many times in the past.  As professional apartment management, the only color we should care about is green.  If prospective renters meet our non-discriminatory resident selection criteria (which should absolutely include a credit check and criminal background screen), we should welcome them.  And hope they will be good tenants who will then want to renew their lease in a year.