The owner and management of an apartment complex on the northwest side of Oklahoma City recently agreed to a settlement of $46,550 in a lawsuit brought in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. The plaintiffs, Metropolitan Fair Housing Council (MFHC) and members of two black families, charged housing discrimination on the basis of race and familial status. The plaintiffs accused the owner and management of violating the federal Fair Housing Act as to the terms, conditions and privileges of rental including constructive eviction of tenants. They were represented by attorney Vera Aktansel.
MFHC initiated the lawsuit after it received tenant-landlord complaints from over a dozen tenants and former tenants of Parklane Townhomes between May 1991 and January 1992, on claims of harassment, name-calling, discrimination policies against children, failure to make repairs, unlawful entry to apartments and illegal proration of gas bills.
Lillie Coleman, a black mother with three children, and the Yassins, a black family with three children alleged that their families were victims of intimidation, accusations of vandalism, claims for delinquent rent when there was in fact no delinquency, verbal abuse with the word "Nigger" used, even to their children. The black families further alleged that they were denied equal access to the use of the facilities, including the swimming pool, lawn and quiet enjoyment of their homes. Lillie Coleman was told by management that they wanted her out because she was "poor, black and on HUD". Prospective white tenants were told by management that they "were getting the blacks out".
Over the following weeks, factual as well as circumstantial evidence was revealed through testi mony taken from the plaintiffs, tenants, ex-tenants and housing officials to support the allegations that the plaintiffs were forced out of their homes by management, certainly constituting a substantial interference with their tenancy. They suffered racist slurs, the term 'nigger' was used excessively and they were humiliated in front of other persons.
Ervin Keith, Executive Director of MFHC, said "that while there was no admission of liability by the defendants, the evidence must have been clear, convincing and compelling to merit such a sizable settlement. We are reasonably pleased with the outcome and trust a clear signal is sent that. MFHC has as a top priority to provide an avenue for relief against housing discrimination for those citizens who cannot afford legal protection."