Greater New Orleans FHAC settles race case for $30,500 and family case for $27,500

The owners of a Tickfaw, Louisiana apartment complex will pay $30,500 in compensatory damages to an African American male student at Southeastern Louisiana University and $1,000 in civil penalties to resolve a housing discrimination lawsuit filed by the Justice Department.

The consent decree, filed January 7, 2002 in the U.S. District Court in New Orleans, resolves an April 2001 lawsuit, which alleged that the defendants, Louis and Frances Milazzo, co-owners and co-mangers of the Green Meadow Apartments, violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent apartments to African American applicants. In addition to the payment of compensatory damages and civil penalties, the consent decree requires the defendants to complete fair housing training, adopt nondiscriminatory rental policies and inform the public that they are equal housing opportunity providers.

Apartment managers asked for race when applicants called about vacancies

The lawsuit alleged that Michael Smith inquired about an apartment at Green Meadows and was turned away because he is African American. He was interested in living at Green Meadows because the apartments are close to Southeastern Louisiana University, where he is a student. The complaint further alleged that the Milazzos engaged in a pattern and practice of racial discrimination because they asked individuals who telephoned about vacant apartments to state their race, gave false information to African Americans regarding the availability of apartments, declined to give African Americans details about available apartments or the existence of a waiting list, and refused to show available apartments to African Americans.

Mr. Smith originally sought assistance regarding his discrimination complaint from FHAC. FHAC conducted testing, having matched pairs of African American and white individuals posing as prospective tenants seeking units at the Green Meadow Apartments. The testing revealed instances in which the pairs were treated differently.

Mr. Smith filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD referred the complaint to the Justice Department after it determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that discrimination had occurred.

In a separate, familial status case handled by FHAC, the Chestnut Condominium Owners’ Association and certain members of its Board of Directors agreed in October 2001 to be held in Judgment for $27,500 and injunctive relief in a fair housing case alleging familial status discrimination.

The case was filed by a family who had contracted to purchase a condominium, the owners of the condominium unit, and the real estate agent who listed the property for sale. In November 2000, Richard Katrovas and Dominika Winterova contracted to purchase a condominium at the Chestnut Condominiums from Charles and Germaine Kearney. The family arranged to meet the Kearneys’ agent at the condominium for an inspection prior to closing the deal.

Board members from condo association claimed complex was an "adult community"

During the inspection, two members of the Board of the condominium association informed the seller’s agent that their community was an "adult community." The lawsuit further alleged that one member stated that children were not welcome and that the condominium fees would increase if children lived there. The lawsuit further alleged that Katrovas overheard a portion of this conversation and, in the face of the hostility of the association, indicated that his family would not purchase the condominium.

The Katrovas-Winterova family, the Kearneys, and the real estate agents all claimed injuries from the Condominium Association’s alleged discrimination and filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in December 2000. According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, the Katrovas-Winterova family lost an important housing opportunity; the Kearneys lost the opportunity to sell their condominium on November 30, 2000 and were exposed to liability for additional expenses and continuing debts until the condominium was ultimately sold to another purchaser in March 2001; and the firm of L.X. LaMulle Realtors was forced to spend additiona  time and resources marketing the condominium and obtained a lesser commission on the later sale in March 2001. In addition to agreeing to be held in Judgment for $27,500, the defendants also agreed to send condominium association board members to fair housing training.