New Yorkers win $7,500 in family case

A New York family settled a federal lawsuit against the owners of a Wheatfield, New Yorkapartment complex for $7,500. The plaintiffs, identified only as Kevin and Corrine,asserted that they had been the victims of family status discrimination. The settlementwas obtained with help from Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) and the Western NewYork Law Center.

In December 1996, Kevin and Corrine were looking for a new home forthemselves and their infant son. Corrine saw a "for rent" sign at the Wheatfieldcomplex owned by Susan and Franklin White. Corrine called and spoke to Susan White aboutrenting at the complex. White asked Corrine who would be living in the apartment. Corrinetold her that it would be herself, her husband, and her son. White allegedly told Corrinethat she did not rent to families with children.

Kevin was also allegedly told that families with children would not be allowed at thecomplex. After his conversation with the landlord, Kevin called HOME.

HOME sent testers to investigate the claims of family status discrimination. The testerwith children was reportedly told that the unit had been rented. Two days later, thetester who claimed to have no children was told that she could see units that were stillavailable.

HOME recently sued the New York State Division of Human Rights because of major delaysin its complaint resolution process, so they chose to try and get a complaint filed infederal court. HOME approached the Western New York Law Center. Joseph Kelemen, one of theCenter's attorneys, took the case.

Kelemen filed suit on March 25, 1997, charging the Whites with violations of federaland state fair housing laws. In late June, a settlement was approved by the court. Beyondthe monetary award, the Whites agreed to extensive affirmative action.