Mobile rental company agrees to pay $1.8 million for refusing to rent to African-Americans

A rental management company in Mobile, Alabama that allegedly discouraged African-Americans from living in its apartment units will pay $1.8 million in damages under an agreement reached with the Justice Department.

Under the settlement, which also resolves a suit filed in 1995 by 17 African-Americans who unsuccessfully sought housing at the Mitchell Brothers rental properties, Mitchell Brothers, Inc. has agreed to notify the public about its new nondiscriminatory rental policies, report regularly to the Justice Department, create a $1.725 million fund to compensate victims, help establish a fair housing organization in Mobile, and pay $75,000 in civil penalties.

The Justice Department accused Mitchell Brothers, Inc. of repeatedly violating the federal Fair Housing Act by intentionally discriminating against African-Americans seeking to rent apartments. The Justice Department's division of civil rights began its investigation against Mitchell Brothers after learning of several complaints from African-American renters who were denied the opportunity to rent at one of the company's complexes.

According to the Justice Department's investigation, the rental company and its employees maintained policies designed to exclude African-Americans. Rental agents routinely told African-Americans that no apartments were available even though apartments were available. Rental applications and other forms were coded with racial identifiers so rental agents did not offer apartments to African-Americans. Mitchell Brothers employees attempted to identify callers by race so that they could withhold rental opportunities from those callers they believed to be African-American. Complex managers routinely instructed rental agents to encourage White prospective tenants to rent there, but to treat prospective African-Americans tenants with indifference. The staff at Mitchell Brothers complexes treated the few Black tenants who were allowed to live there less favorably than White tenants. Black tenants were even steered toward designated apartments in segregated areas at the complexes.

"We are pleased with this agreement because it will fully compensate all the victims of the discriminatory practices," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Deval L. Patrick. "The fair housing group that the company will help establish will advance the cause of fair housing in Mobile for many years to come."