Judge levies award against landlord who wouldn't allow kids to play outside

Contact: Gary Rhoades, Litigation Director
Southern California Housing Rights Center 
520 S. Virgil Ave., Suite 400
Los Angeles CA 90020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(GLENDALE, Cal., Oct. 4, 2002) -- In a case where a landlord prohibited children from playing in the courtyard of a Glendale, California apartment complex, a federal judge has granted two plaintiffs and the Housing Rights Center a permanent injunction and $40,012 in compensatory damages, sanctions and attorneys’ fees against the landlord.

In Housing Rights Center et al v. Harry Ayvazian et al, #CV 01-4423ER (C.D. Cal. Sept. 2002) the Fair Housing Council of San Gabriel Valley (now merged with the Housing Rights Center), along with Gayanne Barsegyan and Margarit Nazliyan, sued the property’s owner and manager in federal court, alleging that defendants discriminated against tenants and on the basis of familial status in the operation of the 26-unit apartment complex. Specifically, the complaint alleged that defendants enforced a rule prohibiting children from playing in the courtyard, the building’s only common area. The two plaintiffs, both mothers, attempted to persuade the owner, Harry Ayvazian, to lift the prohibition against children, but Ayvazian responded with a letter to all tenants confirming the rule. HRC conducted a survey at the apartment complex and mailed fair housing materials to all the tenants.

After defendants’ repeated failures to produce documents despite orders and over $5,000 in sanctions from the court against defendants and their attorney, HRC obtained terminating sanctions and a default judgment. Judge Edward Rafeedie agreed that the rule prohibiting children from playing outside violated the Fair Housing Act. A comprehensive permanent injunction was issued (following the preliminary injunction obtained by HRC at the outset of the case), lifting the rule against children and requiring defendants to both post and distribute the court’s injunction.

On August 5, 2002, the court awarded Gayanne Barsegyan $7,792 in compensatory damages, Margarit Nazliyan $5,100, and HRC $4,429. After affirming HRC’s organizational standing, the court stated that HRC’s award consisted of $1,182 in diversion of resources and $3,247 in future monitoring, advertising, and workshops.

On September 23, 2002, the Court granted HRC’s motion for attorneys’ fees and awarded HRC $17,391 in fees.

The plaintiffs were represented by Danielle Jones and Gary Rhoades from HRC. Mark Geyer of Encino, California represented the defendants.