BNI announces settlement in familial status lawsuit

Baltimore Neighborhoods, Incorporated
2217 St. Paul Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21218
Fax: 410-889-8653 410-243-4400


Settlement in Housing Discrimination Case

A Baltimore City mother of a 5 year old child and a local fair housing organization filed suit in Federal District Court of Maryland against Park Raven Apartments Limited Partnership for violations of the Fair Housing Act. Walida Howard of Baltimore City and Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. (BNI), a private, nonprofit fair housing organization, joined as plaintiffs in the lawsuit claiming discrimination on the basis of familial status. The parties have settled the matter for $24,200.

Ms. Howard telephoned Park Raven Apartments in February 2001, requesting information on two-bedroom apartments. The leasing agent asked if Ms. Howard had children and what was the child's age. After learning that Ms. Howard had a 5 year old son, the agent stated that one unit was available on the first floor. Further, the agent stated that the practice was to place all families with children on the first floor. The leasing manager confirmed this information with Ms. Howard. Ms. Howard informed the employees that the practice of steering families to certain floors was illegal, but the staff stood by their policy. BNI's investigation confirmed this Park Raven Apartments policy of assigning families to certain floors or buildings.

The federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, as amended, prohibits discrimination against families with children in their custody. Prohibited acts include segregating families into certain buildings or floors or setting terms and conditions of tenancy toward families that are not imposed on others.

The settlement terms also included a provision requiring fair housing training for the staff at Park Raven and a written apology to Ms. Howard. Ms. Howard, who has a background in rental management, had stated that the incident made her angry and upset. Tracey Gill, Fair Housing Program Manager at BNI, said, "Many people in the rental industry are unaware about the familial status provisions of the law. We hope that the lawsuit educates the industry, resulting in a reduction of discrimination complaints."

The plaintiffs were represented in this matter by Beth Pepper, Esquire. Inquires should be made to Ms. Pepper at 410-752-2744 or Tracey Gill at 410-243-4400.