Philadelphia landlord agrees to pay $725,000 for restricting families with children to basement apartments

In August, The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the Tenants' Action Group reached an agreement with prominent  real  estate  owner  Michael  Karp.  Karp will pay a $725,000 cash settlement to the plaintiffs. The agreement will ensure that families with children will not be forced to live in the basement apartments at any one of  Karp's  Philadelphia area apartment complexes.

The settlement resolved a lawsuit filed by the Public Interest Law Center on behalf of the Shammouh family and the Fair Housing Action Center (FHAC), a project of the Tenants' Action Group. The federal complaint charges Karp and University City Housing Company with discriminating against families with children in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.

The complaint alleges that the company restricted many families with children to basement level apartments at complexes managed by University City Housing, a real estate management company owned by Michael Karp.

This is the largest "familial status" fair  housing  settlement  in Pennsylvania since Congress amended the Fair Housing Act in 1988 to include  prohibiting  discrimination  against  families with  children.

The settlement will require that Karp make all of his rental properties available on an equal basis to families with children and will show a fair housing policy to all prospective tenants.  This fair housing policy is required on all documents, correspondence and materials provided to tenants or prospective tenants.  Karp is also obligated to provide fair housing training to his employees at Summit Gardens, Summit Park, and Woodmere apartments.

University Housing asked that Hamad and Reem Shammouh move  from  their  third floor  apartment  at  Summit  Garden Apartments to a basement level apartment shortly after their first child was born.  If they did not want to move to a basement unit, then they would have to leave.

The Shammouhs looked for other housing, and when they related this experience to an employee of a nearby apartment complex, they learned for the first time that University Housing violated their fair housing rights.

The Fair Housing Action Center investigated the leasing practices of University City Housing.  The Center discovered that agents treated prospective tenants with children differently than applicants without children at several of its properties.

"We are thrilled with this settlement.  We will not stand for housing discrimination in our community, and we will aggressively investigate and prosecute landlords who violate the Fair Housing Act," stated Ronaldlyn Latham, Director of the FHAC.

The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia represented the Shammouhs and the FHAC.  Karen Black, an attorney formerly with the Law Center, handled the case.  "Fair housing law requires landlords to give families with children the same housing opportunities as everyone
else.  The need to ensure that families with children have equal access to housing of their choice is a national priority," Black said.

Under the terms of the settlement, Karp does not admit to violating the Fair Housing Act.