“No kids outside” rule costs California landlord $40,012 in damages, sanctions, and attorneys’ fees

In a case where a landlord prohibited children from playing in the courtyard of a Glendale, California apartment complex, a federal judge has granted two plaintiffs and the Southern California Housing Rights Center (HRC) a permanent injunction and $40,012 in compensatory damages, sanctions, and attorneys’ fees. An August ruling by the federal court awarded  compensatory damages to the plaintiffs. A ruling in September granted attorneys’ fees in the case.

Two mothers went to court after landlord refused to rescind discriminatory rules against children Gayanne Barsegyan, Margarit Nazliyan, and the HRC sued Harry Ayvazian, an apartment complex owner and manager, in federal court, alleging that he discriminated against tenants and on the basis of familial status in the operation of his 26-unit apartment complex. The suit also named George Atachian, the complex’s co-owner.

Specifically, the complaint alleged that the defendants enforced a rule prohibiting children from playing in the courtyard, the building’s only common area. The two plaintiffs, both mothers, attempted to persuade Ayvazian to lift the prohibition against children, but Ayvazian responded by sending a letter to all tenants in the complex restating and confirming the discriminatory rule. The HRC conducted a survey at the apartment complex and mailed fair housing materials to all the tenants.

Judge issues more than $5,000 in sanctions against defendants and their attorney

After Ayvazian, Atachian, and their attorney repeatedly failed or refused to produce documents or answer discovery questions in the case, HRC obtained terminating sanctions and a default judgment against them. More than $5,000 in sanctions were levied against the defendants and their attorney for their uncooperativeness.

In a June 2002 ruling, the court admonished the defendants for “repeated and flagrant failures” to comply with court orders regarding discovery and the payment of sanctions during the litigation.

Judge Edward Rafeedie ruled that a policy prohibiting children from playing outside violated the Fair Housing Act. A comprehensive permanent injunction was issued lifting the rule against children and requiring defendants to both post and distribute the court’s injunction. This was following the preliminary injunction obtained by HRC at the outset of the case.

On August 5, 2002, the court awarded Gayanne Barsegyan $7,792 in compensatory damages, Margarit Nazliyan $5,100, and HRC $4,429. After Judge Rafeedie affirmed the HRC’s organizational standing, the court stated that HRC’s award consisted of $1,182 in diversion of resources and $3,247 in future monitoring, advertising, and fair housing workshops.

On September 23, 2002, the Court granted HRC’s motion for attorneys’ fees and awarded HRC $17,391 in fees. The plaintiffs were represented by Danielle Jones and Gary Rhoades from HRC. Mark Geyer of Encino, California represented the defendants.

Fair Housing Council v. Ayvazian
CV 01-4423ER - U.S. District Court,
Central District of California (Western Div.)
The Honorable Edward Rafeedie, Judge
Complaint filed: May 16, 2001
Default Judgment: August 1, 2002
Attorneys’ Fees Awarded: September 23, 2002