Record settlement in Bismarck housing discrimination case


For Further Information: Amy Schauer Nelson

Jan. 3, 2000 - The North Dakota Fair Housing Council (NDFHC) and six Bismarck residents have reached a $125,000 settlement in a housing discrimination suit filed in federal district court. The lawsuit was brought in 1998 against John and Tillie Haider, Bismarck property owners, charging discriminatory housing practices based upon familial status, national origin, age, marital status and receipt of public assistance. The agreed settlement is believed to be the largest in a fair housing case in state history.

The terms of the consent order and settlement agreement provide that the plaintiffs will share $125,000 in damages, attorney fees and costs in bringing the lawsuit. Individual and NDFHC recoveries were based on the harm experienced and the number of individuals involved.

Amy Schauer Nelson, Executive Director of the NDFHC stated, "The North Dakota Fair Housing Council looks forward to working with Mr. Haider, as well as other housing providers, to eliminate discriminatory housing practices in our State. Unfortunately, we have found that educating housing providers is simply not enough. We must also take the steps to enforce the provisions of the Fair Housing Law for those who continue to discriminate."

On the basis of over 15 complaints of discrimination which were filed with the NDFHC, the NDFHC conducted an investigation in 1998 of Mr. Haider's business operations. Mr. Haider owns apartments throughout Bismarck.

The federal law that governs housing discrimination is the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which was passed by Congress in 1968 and amended in 1988. The FHA forbids discrimination in the sale, rental or financing of housing on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, familial status (presence of children), or disability. The North Dakota Century Code on Human Rights forbids similar kinds of discrimination and also gives further
protection to individuals on the basis of age, receipt of public assistance, and marital status.

The North Dakota Fair Housing Council is a North Dakota non-profit organization incorporated in 1995 and located in Bismarck. The NDFHC's mission is to provide support, encouragement, and assistance to those seeking equal access to housing in the state of North Dakota. The NDFHC also investigates complaints of housing discrimination.

The NDFHC and the individual plaintiffs were represented in the lawsuit by Calvin Rolfson, a Bismarck lawyer, and by Christopher Brancart, a lawyer from Pescadero, California who specializes in fair housing litigation.