Justice reaches $800,000 settlement with Alabama apartment complexes

February 19, 1998
The Justice Department on Feb. 19 reached an agreement totaling nearly $800,000 that requires the owners and operators of five apartment complexes in Mobile, Alabama to put in place a new policy preventing discrimination against African Americans seeking rentals.
     The agreement, filed in U.S. District Court in Mobile, resolves allegations that Springdale Stores, Inc. and related Delaney companies violated the federal Fair Housing Act by engaging in a practice of discriminating against African Americans seeking to rent apartments. Under the agreement, the companies will compensate individuals who were discriminated against and will take steps to prevent future discrimination.
     "No American should be refused a place to call home because of the color of their skin," said Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "We are committed to battling housing discrimination across the country. Today's case demonstrates our commitment."
     Lee noted that the action is the second major rental discrimination case brought in the Mobile area in the past two year. Last year the Justice Department reached a similar settlement with Mitchell Brothers' totaling $1.8 million.
     The Justice Department alleged in a complaint, filed together with today's settlement, that the companies' employees falsely informed prospective African American tenants that no apartments were available while at the same time telling prospective white tenants that apartments were available. It also alleged that the employees steered African Americans toward certain less desirable sections of the complexes. The Justice Department became aware of the allegations during its investigation into discriminatory practices at complexes owned by Mitchell Brothers, Inc.
     Today's settlement also resolves a private class action suit filed by 13 African Americans who had sought housing or lived at the rental properties at issue.
     Upon being notified of the allegations, the companies' owners entered into settlement discussions with the Justice Department and attorneys for the 13 class representatives.
     Lee commended the commitment of the Springdale and Delaney representatives, as well as the class representatives, to resolving this case and to ensuring compliance with the fair housing laws.
     Under today's agreement, the property companies will: pay $645,000 to compensate any persons who are victims of the discriminatory policies; pay $135,000 in attorney's fees; provide fair housing training for their employees and publicize the non-discrimination policy at their apartment complexes and in their advertisements; and, hire an independent third party to test whether non-discrimination policies are being maintained at the properties.
     The properties involved in this settlement are Windsor Place Apartments, Yester Oaks Apartments, Pathways Apartments, Sandpiper Apartments, and Cabana Apartments. "This case demonstrates again that housing discrimination is not only illegal under the Fair Housing Act but also expensive to correct. It's best to just don't do it," said J. Don Foster, U.S. Attorney in Mobile.
     Individuals who believe that they may have been the victims of housing discrimination at these complexes should call the Housing Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743 or 202-514-4713.