Family receives $5,000 and 10 years rent in familial status discrimination case

Kentucky Fair Housing Council • 436 S. 7th Street, Suite 201
Louisville KY 40203 • 502-583-3247 • Fax: 502-583-3180

Contact: Tony Baize
Phone: 502-583-3247
Fax: 502-583-3180

For Release Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Family could receive as much as an additional $21,500 

(LOUISVILLE, Ky., March 11, 2003) -- A single mother with five children has settled a federal fair housing discrimination lawsuit against the owner of a mobile home park in Louisville. Russell Brown, the owner of Brown’s Mobile Home Park, allegedly discriminated against Sarah Webb and her children by denying them a lease, charging them higher rent, and attempting to evict them because of the size of her family. 

The Kentucky Fair Housing Council 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 in April and May 2002. Both the HUD complaint and the federal lawsuit alleged that Brown refused to deal with Webb due to her five minor children and attempted to evict Ms. 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,” “children should be off the street by sunset,” 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 against families with children violate 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 about renting the lot upon which her mobile home was set, she was told that the owner tended to “overlook” rental applications from families with more than two children.

Webb later had a conversation with Brown, the co-owner of the park, in which he inquired as to the names and ages of her children, and discouraged her from moving into the mobile home. Brown told her that he would put a rental application in her mailbox but never did.

Needing a place to stay, Webb and her children moved into the mobile home as planned. Webb then faced numerous attempts by Brown to force her family out of the park. Webb continued to live in the park, and attempted to pay rent, although Brown continually refused her payment. In late March, 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.

The Fair Housing Council 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 until her complaints of familial status discrimination were resolved. 

Webb’s housing discrimination complaint at HUD was referred to the Louisville & Jefferson County Human Relations Commission for investigation. Charles Ighagbon, the Commission’s housing compliance supervisor, successfully conciliated the complaint. The March 7, 2003 settlement 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 agrees to pay Ms. Webb $2,150.00 for each remaining year in the ten-year span.

Galen Martin, the Fair Housing Council’s executive director, called the settlement a great resolution to the complaint. “Families with children have the same rights to housing as everyone else. Landlords and other housing providers cannot place restrictions on families due to their size, and they cannot place unreasonable restrictions on children. This settlement sends a strong message to housing providers who think they can treat families with children differently than their other tenants.”

Alex Rose, the Fair Housing Council’s former staff attorney, said that just because housing providers rent to families with children, it doesn’t mean they can impose unfair rules against them. “To limit the number of children in a home – but not the number of adults – is ridiculous and illegal. The same is true when it comes to charging families additional rent for each child they have and telling parents when and where their children can play.”

Tony Baize, the Fair Housing Council’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. Congress passed fair housing protections for families with children nearly 15 years ago, and housing providers are still bold enough to have anti-children rules and policies. The fact that the Defendants put their 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 handled represented Webb in the unlawful eviction actions by Brown and contacted the Fair Housing Council to investigate the acts of discrimination she felt might have occurred. 
“This settlement is another example of the great work that the Fair Housing Council does,” Smith said. 

Photos of Webb, complaint documents, court rulings, and copies of the now-rescinded Brown’s Mobile Home Park rules are available from the Fair Housing Council. Requests for interviews for Ms. Webb should be directed to the Fair Housing Council. A Webb family photo will be available soon. 

The Kentucky Fair Housing Council is a private nonprofit agency dedicated to eradicating housing discrimination in Kentucky and southern Indiana. The Council offers legal services to victims of housing discrimination and assists them in filing complaints with HUD, the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, and the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission. The Council also files lawsuits in state and federal court.

Persons who believe they have been denied housing because of their race, color, national origin, sex, religion, family status, disability, or sexual orientation should contact the Fair Housing Council at 502-583-3247. Outside Louisville, complainants can call 800-558-3247.