Kentucky family wins $5,000 and ten years free rent in discrimination case against mobile home park

A single mother with five children has settled a federal fair housing discrimination lawsuit against the owner of a mobile home park in Louisville, Kentucky. The settlement includes a $5,000 cash payment to the family and 10 years of free rent, including certain utilities.

Russell Brown, the co-owner of Brown’s Mobile Home Park, allegedly discriminated against Sarah Webb and her children by denying them a lease, charging higher rent, and attempting to evict them because of the Webb family’s size.

The Kentucky Fair Housing Council (KFHC) assisted Webb in filing a housing discrimination complaint with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and a federal lawsuit against Brown and the other owners and managers of Brown’s  mobile Home Park. Both complaints asserted that Brown refused to deal with Webb due to her five minor children and attempted to evict Webb based on her familial status.

The written Park Rules at Brown’s Mobile Home Park included discriminatory and illegal provisions like “families may have no more than two children,” “there is a $5.00 additional (rent) charge for each child,” “children must be kept on individual lot,” “children are not allowed to play or ride in front of the office or the park,” and “all youth, 16 years of age and older must be off the street by 10:00 p.m., all youth under 16 years of age must be off the street by dark.” These  restrictions violated the fair housing laws of Louisville, the State of Kentucky, and the United States.

Webb purchased a mobile home located in Brown’s Mobile Home Park in January 2002. When Webb spoke with another resident at the park, she was told that the owner tended to “overlook” rental applications from families with more than two children. Webb talked with Brown, and he asked the names and ages of her children. He then discouraged Webb from moving into her mobile home. Brown said he would put an application in Webb’s mailbox but never did.

Needing a place to stay, Webb and her children moved into their mobile home. Brown repeatedly tried to force the family out of the park. Webb attempted to pay rent, but Brown refused her payment. In March 2002, Brown began eviction proceedings against the Webb family, claiming that she had violated the lease agreement because she had bought a mobile home from another owner and refused to move it after he gave her notice. However, Webb had never been given the opportunity to sign a lease agreement. KFHC, with the assistance of the Legal Aid Society of Louisville, eventually won an injunction in federal court to prevent Brown from attempting to evict Webb.

Family could receive as much as $21,500 more

Webb’s housing discrimination complaint at HUD was referred to the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission for investigation. Charles Ighagbon, the Commission’s housing compliance supervisor, successfully conciliated the complaint. The March 7, 2003 agreement between Webb and the Defendants resolves the HUD complaint and the federal lawsuit. Webb received a lump sum payment of $5,000.00, and she will be allowed to live in Brown’s Mobile Home Park rent-free for the next ten years. If Brown sells the park within the next ten years, he has agreed to pay Ms. Webb $2,150.00 for each remaining year in the ten-year agreement.

Galen Martin, KFHC’s executive director, called the settlement a great resolution to the complaint. “Landlords cannot place unreasonable restrictions on families with children. This settlement sends a strong message to housing providers who think they can treat families with children differently than their other tenants,” he said.

Tony Baize, KFHC’s assistant director, said that discrimination against families with children continues to be rampant in Kentucky and southern Indiana. “Unlike racial discrimination, which has – for the most part – become a covert activity, discrimination against families with children continues to occur out in the open. The fact that the Defendants put anti-children rules in writing in this case shows the brazenness of this type of overt discrimination.”

Gretchen C. Avery and Robert Smith of the Legal Aid Society of Louisville also worked on this case. Avery represented Webb in the unlawful eviction actions by Brown and initially contacted the Fair Housing Council.

Webb v. Brown’s Mobile Home Park
Case No. 3:02-CV-289-H (W.D. Ky.)
The Honorable John Heyburn II, U.S. District Judge
Alex Rose and Gretchen Avery, attorneys for plaintiff
Federal complaint filed: May 24, 2002
Settlement Agreement: March 7, 2003