FHC San Diego wins its first family status settlement

The Fair Housing Council of San Diego settled a complaint of family status discriminationagainst two southern California landlords for $17,000. The 1997 settlement was the firstthat the Council had received as the sole plaintiff in a federal lawsuit. Beyond the cashaward, the Council received other affirmative relief items.

Civil rights attorneyChristopher Brancart filed the Council's suit against Armand and Esther Mattia, allegingthat they had violated both the federal Fair Housing Act and California's Fair Employmentand Housing Act. The Mattias owned several apartment units in the San Diego area.

Woman denied apartment when she says she has minor children

In February 1995, a complainant contacted the Council and explained that someonehad denied her an apartment at the Mattias' complex because she had a minor child. Thewoman had called about a vacancy at the Mattias' complex. The person she spoke to asked ifshe had any children. When the complainant responded that she did have children, therental agent said that they did not allow children at the complex, per the owners'instructions.

Testers without children encouraged to apply

Using FHIP funds, the Fair Housing Council launched an investigation into theallegations of family status discrimination at the complex. The property manager at thecomplex asked ten of the Council's eleven testers whether or not they had children.Testers who asserted that they had no children were given rental information and wereencouraged to inspect and apply for an apartment. Testers who said that they had childrenwere told that the owner of the complex would not allow children at the complex. Sometesters were told that the complex was not for senior citizens, but children were simplynot allowed.

The defendants agreed to the settlement while making no admission of guilt. In additionto the monetary portion of the settlement, the Mattias agreed to place advertisements inlocal papers when they had vacancies at their complex, to display fair housing informationat their complex, and to attend training conducted by the Fair Housing Council of SanDiego. They will also maintain records of all prospective tenants and forward complaintsof discrimination to HUD.