Ohio landlord pays $100,000 and apologizes to family

An Elyria, Ohio landlord has agreed to pay $100,000 and apologize to a family forallegedly not allowing them to move into the "adult building" at a complex heowns. The settlement agreement also requires Lance Stehman, the landlord, to attend fairhousing training along with his employees. The July 31 settlement came just eight daysafter Dionise and Ron Barnett and the Lorain County Urban League filed a federal lawsuitagainst Stehman.

In June, the Barnetts drove past Condor GardensApartments and noticed a "NOW LEASING" sign on the property near the rentaloffice. However, when they inquired about vacancies, they were told that the onlyvacancies were in the "adult building" and that the building for families withchildren was full. The rental agents at the complex told the Barnetts that they could notmove into a two-bedroom apartment in the "adult building" at the complex becauseof their two-year-old daughter and five-month-old son.

Lawsuit not about money, says plaintiff
The Barnetts contacted the Urban League and filed suit against Lance Stehman and thecomplex's rental agents. The original complaint asked for $270,000 in damages and relief.Dionise Barnett said that the lawsuit was not about money, but about preventing futurediscrimination against families with children. In an interview with the Plain Dealer,a Cleveland newspaper, Mrs. Barnett said, "I'm glad that our going ahead with itmight mean that it won't happen to someone else. It's about being fair."

The incident, however, has persuaded the Barnetts to move back to their home town ofToledo. Dionise Barnett, who works for the Lorain County Department of Human Services, andRon Barnett, who manages a restaurant in nearby Oberlin, said that they will try to findnew jobs in Toledo.

Avery Friedman, a prominent civil rights attorney who represented the Barnetts and theUrban League in the case, told a reporter that a lot of discrimination against familieswith children stems from a landlord's preconceived notions about children. "Theassumption by landlords is, if there are going to be children, there's going to betrouble," he said. Friedman also said that complaints of family status discriminationare on the rise in northeastern Ohio and the United States.