Interracial couple turned away from rental house win $65,000 settlement in Chicago-area race case

In June, two suburban Chicago landlords, whom a fair housing agency accused of refusing torent to an interracial couple and for turning away other blacks, agreed to pay $65,000 tosettle a complaint filed with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Ina signed conciliation agreement, landlords Barbara Civik and her brother, Kenneth Civik,of Wauconda, Illinois, have agreed to pay $50,000 to Eric and Beth King, and $15,000 tothe HOPE Fair Housing Center in Wheaton, Illinois.

The Kings were moving from Marietta,Georgia to the Chicago area when they responded to a Chicago Tribune ad for a houseowned by the Civiks. Barbara Civik managed the rental house. Eric King, who isAfrican-American; Beth King, who is white; and their 20-month-old daughter went to see theproperty on March 17th, 1998.

Barbara Civik showed the house to the Kings. However, when the couple called back onthe same day saying that they wanted to sign a lease, Civik allegedly told them she wouldnot rent to an interracial couple. Civik said that she would not rent to them because shefeared for their safety, implying that the neighbors might attack them.

Landlord told interracial couple that other towns were "more accepting of thatkind of thing"

Barbara Civik also said that she was afraid neighbors would damage the property becausethe Kings were an interracial couple. According to the Kings, Civik tried to steer them tothe Chicago suburbs of Oak Park or Maywood because, as Civik allegedly told them,"They are more accepting of that kind of thing (interracial couples) there."

Eric King said that he could not believe what Civik had said. "I was just shockedby her blatancy," King said concerning Civik's comments. Beth King remarked that sheand Eric had lived in the South together for more than 11 years and had never faced thekind of overt discrimination they faced on their first trip to the Midwest.

Landlord turned away each African-American tester

The Kings filed a complaint with HUD. HUD contacted HOPE and asked the organization toconduct rental tests. HOPE sent testers acting as prospective tenants to two of theCiviks' properties, including the one the Kings had tried to rent. HOPE conducted severaltests between March 18 and March 20. They allege that Barbara

Civik told each African-American tester that she was "not a racist" but thatshe was concerned for the safety of the applicant and concerned about damage to herproperty.

HOPE and the Kings contacted Jeffrey Taren, a Chicago attorney with more than 20 yearsof fair housing experience. Taren agreed to represent HOPE and the Kings in the HUDproceedings. HUD quickly arranged and mediated a conciliation conference with the parties.The Civiks agreed to settle. Beyond the monetary payments to the Kings and to HOPE, theCiviks also agreed to affirmatively market their rental properties and to attend fairhousing training.

"This victory is the result of a partnership between HUD and HOPE Fair HousingCenter, working together to uncover and eliminate illegal housing discrimination wheneverand wherever it occurs," said Bernard Kleina, HOPE Executive Director. "Thissuccessful ongoing partnership brings hope to many who are victimized by housingdiscrimination." HOPE, which receives HUD Fair Housing Initiative Program grants tofight housing discrimination, serves DuPage, Kane and 28 other counties in northern andnorth central Illinois.

Acts of discrimination forced family to stay apart while father stayed in temporaryhousing

After the problems in renting the house from the Civiks, Beth King and her daughterstayed behind in Georgia while Eric, an area sales manager, stayed in the Chicago area intemporary housing. The Kings just recently purchased a home in the Chicago area.

"The message of this settlement is that housing discrimination does not pay,"HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo said. "Such acts are outrageous, illegal and intolerable.We will not allow illegal discrimination to stop families across this nation from livingin any home, in any apartment or in any neighborhood they can afford."