NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Settles California Housing Suit for $300,000

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., has settled of a California housing discrimination lawsuit for $300,000. The payment to the plaintiffs is believed to be one of the five largest awards ever paid to victims of racial discrimination in the rental of housing.

The owner of a 40-unit apartment complex in the San Fernando Valley is paying $300,000 to two victims of racial discrimination. The owner has agreed to be bound by a court order requiring changes to, and monitoring of, the rental policies of all units owned by the landlord.

The names of the parties have been withheld under terms of the settlement agreement entered into between the parties.

The victims, an African American man and woman, suffered discrimination in two separate incidents in 1988 and 1989. In March of 1989, the landlord raised the rent on the unit the male plaintiff occupied while no other tenants experienced rent increases.

The rental manager confessed that the landlord had ordered the rent increase to keep "pressure" on the man in an effort to force him out of the building. According to the manager's deposition, the landlord stated to her that he never would have rented the unit to the plaintiff had he known that he was "colored." The manager said the landlord had instructed her to deny the rental application of any African American.

The woman, a 23 year-old who recently moved to the Los Angeles area from Minnesota, was discriminatorily denied a unit at the same apartment complex in 1988. When she tried to move into an apartment in the complex that was occupied by a friend, the rental manager had told her she would have to fill out an application.

Despite having listed on her application that she was working for a temporary agency that specialized in the health care field, that she had over $2,000 in her Minneapolis bank account, and that she had been a paying tenant of an identified landlord, the woman's application was denied.

The rental manager told her that her application was denied because 1) she had not lived in Los Angeles for eight months, 2) she did not have sufficient "California credit," and 3) she did not own a car. These criteria had not been applied to white applicants in the complex, and the manager admitted to a tenant in the building that she had denied the woman's application because of her race.

Under the consent decree, the landlord must make efforts to rent at least 10 percent of his units to African Americans. "The settlement of this lawsuit illustrates a significant increase in damage awards to victims of racial discrimination in housing," stated Kevin Reed, Western Regional Counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.