Bellsouth, apartment complex settle familial status complaint for $21,000

Contacts: Galen Martin, Tony Baize or Alex Rose
Phone: 502-583-3247
Fax: 502-583-3180

For Release August 6, 2001 fair housing discrimination complaints against BellSouth and the former owners of Trinity Towers Apartments in downtown Louisville for $21,000. The settlement of the complaints of family status discrimination and discrimination in advertising includes $10,000 in Yellow Pages advertising over the next three years and a cash settlement paid to the Council.

The Council filed complaints against Trinity Towers and BellSouth when staff discovered a Yellow Pages ad for Trinity which included the words "ADULT LIVING DOWNTOWN." A Fair Housing Council staff member called Trinity Towers and asked if it was a seniors-only complex and was told, "No."

The Fair Housing Council used testing to discover if Trinity Towers was turning away tenants with children under the age of 18. Testing is a process where two similarly situated people go to the same complex to inquire about housing. In this case, one tester had a young child and the other tester did not.

The tests run by the Fair Housing Council confirmed that Trinity Towers would not rent to tenants with children. A leasing agent for Trinity Towers told the tester with a child, "We don’t take kids here." The tester without children was given an application and encouraged to apply for an apartment.

Armed with the Yellow Pages ad and the testing evidence, the Fair Housing Council filed complaints against BellSouth and Trinity Towers for discriminating against families with children in housing. After more than a year of negotiation, both BellSouth and the former owners of Trinity Towers agreed to settle the complaints, before the Louisville and Jefferson County Human Relations Commission could hold an administrative hearing.

"This settlement sends a clear message that housing providers and publishers must stop doing business in a discriminatory way," said Galen Martin, the Fair Housing Council’s executive director. "The fair housing laws protecting families with children were passed more than a decade ago, and this type of discrimination is still occurring. The Fair Housing Council is here to stop this type of housing discrimination here in Louisville, and throughout Kentucky and southern Indiana."

Federal, state, and local fair housing laws do provide exemptions from family status rules for seniors-only housing, provided that housing providers adhere to strict requirements. The Council’s investigation found no evidence that Trinity Towers was a seniors-only complex.

This is the third settlement that the Fair Housing Council has won involving discriminatory advertising. In 1997, the Council won a $25,000 settlement against Ameritech and Carolyn Apartments of Clarksville, Indiana that involved family status discrimination. In 1999, the Fair Housing Council settled a case in Louisville against the Thrifty Nickel Want Ads for $15,000. That case involved ads that used discriminatory language with regard to race, sex, religion, and family status.

Tony Baize, the Council’s assistant director and test coordinator, conducted the investigation in this case. Staff Attorney Alex Rose negotiated the settlement agreements with BellSouth and the former owners of Trinity Towers.

The Kentucky Fair Housing Council is a private nonprofit agency dedicated to ending housing discrimination in Kentucky and southern Indiana. The Council receives funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to carry out this mission. 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 and Jefferson County 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, or disability should contact the Fair Housing Council at 502-583-3247. Outside Louisville, complainants can call 800-558-3247.