Tennessee single mom wins $18,000 in damages and fees from operators of Gallatin apartment complex

A single mother will receive a total of $18,000 in damages and attorney fees to settle a federal housing discrimination lawsuit against the owners and manager of Halewood Manor, an apartment complex in Gallatin, Tennessee. Under the terms of the settlement, the owners and manager of the complex also will receive training on the Fair Housing Act and will refrain from violating state and federal fair housing laws.

The lawsuit alleges that Angela Woodard was denied an apartment at the complex on several occasions because she has a small child. Woodard had hoped to get an apartment at the complex because of it is affordability and because her brother had lived there.

Plaintiff attempted to rent from complex four times

When Woodard first attempted to rent a unit at Halewood Manor in June 2001, complex manager Onie Clark told her the only available unit was upstairs and that she could not rent the unit because her child would disturb the downstairs neighbors. Woodard asked Clark to call her back if any downstairs units became available, but she never heard from her or anyone else at Halewood.

In September 2001, Woodard contacted Clark again about an apartment. A downstairs apartment was available, but Clark allegedly would not rent to her, claiming complex policy did not allow two people in a one-bedroom unit. In October 2001, Woodard tried again, responding to an ad in the Gallatin News Examiner. Clark again told Woodard that she and her son, who was 12 months old at the time, could not share a one-bedroom apartment. In November 2001, Woodard made her last call to Halewood and was told that the complex does not rent one-bedroom apartments to families with children because they are too close to the street and because the stairs are too steep.

Woodard filed a complaint with the Tennessee Fair Housing Council. Council attorney Martha Lafferty filed federal lawsuit on Woodard’s behalf. The defendants admitted to a practice at Halewood Manor of not renting one-bedroom units or units near the street to families with children. They claimed they felt such a practice was not illegal under the Fair Housing Act. Clark and complex owners Holly and Kerry Bullington of Kentucky did not admit liability in the case.

The Fair Housing Council asserts that blanket “no-children” policies in apartment complexes are clearly illegal, but other rules such as only one person in a one-bedroom apartment or no children upstairs also violate the Fair Housing Act.

“Assumptions about crowding, safety and noise are not legitimate reasons to turn children away,” said Tracey McCartney, the Council’s executive director.

Woodard v. Bullington; Case No. 02-CV-103 (M.D. Tenn)
The Honorable Aleta A. Trauger, U.S. District Judge
Martha M. Lafferty, attorney for plaintiff
Case filed: January 29, 2002
Consent Order and Settlement: December 23, 2002