Oregon woman and daughter settle family status complaints against landlords for $10,000

An Oregon woman and her daughter settled a family status complaint against two southeastPortland landlords for $10,000 in late July. The settlement, which was negotiated byprivate attorneys and the United States Attorney's Office in Oregon, also called for thecomplex's on-site manager to attend fair housing training courses and other affirmativerelief.

In May 1995, Darla Moyer-Sims responded to an advertisement for a"large charming studio" apartment in southeast Portland. Moyer-Sims thought thatit would be ideal for herself and her three year old daughter. At the time, she hadcustody of her daughter three days per week.

Landlord seemed interested in renting apartment to complainantuntil he learned of daughter
Moyer-Sims met with the landlord, Christopher Prescott, and expressed her interest inrenting the apartment. According to Moyer-Sims, Prescott seemed interested in renting theapartment to her until he found out she had a young daughter.

Prescott then discouraged Moyer-Sims from applying for the unit, despite her repeatedlytelling him that she wanted the apartment. Prescott finally agreed to allow Moyer-Sims tosubmit an application and made an appointment to see her. However, Prescott called beforethe appointment and said that the apartment had been rented to someone else, Moyer-Simssaid.

Moyer-Sims took her concerns to the Fair Housing Council of Oregon. TheCouncil ran tests for family status discrimination which verified Moyer-Sims' allegations.With the assistance of Multnomah County Legal Aid, Moyer-Sims filed a complaint with theUS Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). After additional investigative work,HUD issued a Charge of Discrimination against Prescott and James Richardson, a co-owner ofthe complex.

US Attorney files case against the defendants
Prescott and Richardson elected to take the case to federal court. Under the Fair HousingAct, the US Attorney General must file a lawsuit against respondents in a HUD complaint ifthey or the complainants elect to move the case to federal court. The US Attorney's Officein Oregon filed suit against Prescott and Richardson and became a party in the lawsuit.The United States has a duty to be involved in the suit because of its interest to ensureequal housing opportunities for its citizens.

Once the US Attorney became involved, Prescott and Richardson agreed to settle. TheUnited States was represented in the case by Assistant US Attorney Okianer Christian Dark.Moyer-Sims was represented by Portland attorney Zachary Zabinsky. Zabinsky also helped