Two Hartford, Connecticut rental property companies agreed to pay $60,000 to settle a family status discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee. The December 1998 settlement is the largest family status discrimination settlement in Connecticut's history.
According to Jeaninne Adkins, a former rental agent and property manager for Birch Realty and Harcon Properties, she was told to lie to families with children about the availability of apartments at eight different properties owned by the companies. Adkins estimated that as many as 50 families were falsely told that no apartments were available during the three months she worked for the companies.
Adkins alleged in her lawsuit that the companies fired her, because she refused to enforce the companies' "no children" policy. After her termination, she contacted the Connecticut Fair Housing Center. The Center took her complaint and helped her file a lawsuit.
After receiving Adkins' complaint, the Center sent testers to the properties owned and managed by Birch and Harcon. According to the Hartford Courant, the Center found that rental agents either misinformed potential renters with children about apartment availability, or agents did not return their phone calls. Adult testers with no children received positive results, according to the Center.
Koren Thanner, who worked as the Center's fair housing coordinator when Adkins filed her complaint, said that landlords have many excuses for not renting to children. Concerning "no children" policies, Thanner told the Courant, "As long as the apartment is large enough for the designated number of people, landlords can't pick and choose people to live in their units like that."
Under the terms of the settlement, $60,000 will go to the Fair Housing Center, and the companies involved have agreed to adopt rental rules prohibiting their agents from discriminating against families with children. The owners of the companies have denied wrongdoing.