The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center announces the resolution of familial status, race cases

Action Center

For Immediate Release
Date: March 6, 2002
Contact: Jeffrey May/Stacy Seicshnaydre
Phone: 504 596-2100
Fax: 504 596-2004

Discrimination against families with children challenged at condominium in Uptown New Orleans

In addition to the $100,500 jury verdict in favor of an African American victim of discrimination, which was the subject of a separate announcement, FHAC announces the resolution of two additional housing discrimination matters filed in federal court.

In October 2001, the Chestnut Condominium Owners' Association and certain members of its Board of Directors agreed 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 Realtors who listed the property. The Fair Housing Act provides relief for all persons aggrieved by discriminatory housing practices.

In November 2000, Richard Katrovas and Dominika Winterova contracted to purchase a condominium at the Chestnut Condominiums from Charles and Germaine Kearney and arranged to meet the Kearneys' Realtor at the condominium for an inspection. The lawsuit alleged that during the inspection, two members of the Board of the condominium association informed the seller's Realtor 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 Mr. Katrovas overheard a portion of this conversation and, in the face of the hostility of the association Directors, indicated that his family would not purchase the condominium.

The Katrovas/Winterova family, the Kearneys, and the Realtors 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, Inc. Realtors were forced to spend additional 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.

The plaintiffs were represented by Laurie Peller of Peller & Williams and Stacy Seicshnaydre, FHAC General Counsel.

Justice Department case settles against Tickfaw, Louisiana apartment complex

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 on account of race. In addition to the payment of compensatory damages and civil penalties, the consent decree requires the defendants to complete fair housing training, adopt non-discriminatory rental policies and inform the public that they are equal housing opportunity providers.

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 or practice of racial discrimination by: asking individuals who telephoned about vacant apartments to state their race; giving false information to African-Americans regarding the availability of apartments; declining to give African-Americans details about available apartments or the existence of a waiting list; and refusing 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 black and white individuals pose 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 investigated and determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that discriminatory housing practices had occurred.

FHAC is funded in part by a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Fair Housing Initiatives Program grant.

Anyone with any information concerning a discriminatory housing practice can call the Fair Housing Action Center at 596-2100.