CA complex pays $51K after falsely claiming seniors-only exemption to family status coverage

In a case where the management staff of an apartment complex in Gardenia, California allegedly told an expectant mother over the phone that it would not accept families with children because it was a “seniors only” complex, a federal judge has issued a Consent Decree and Final Order directing the owner to pay $51,000 and enter into a two-year fair housing program. Testing by southern California’s Housing Rights Center proved both the existence of a policy barring families with children and another policy that accepted adults of all ages.

In Housing Rights Center (formerly Westside Fair Housing Council) v. Galaxy Apartments, the Center and Krystal Simpson sued the apartment complex and management company in federal court in February of 2002, alleging that Defendants discriminated against applicants on the basis of familial status in the operation of the 125-unit complex. Specifically, the complaint alleged that defendants refused to rent to applicants with children or expecting children. Defendants would tell such applicants that the apartment complex was a seniors-only building.

However, the Housing Rights Center sent testers to the Defendants’ building and learned that childless adult testers of all ages were accepted. Only testers with children or who were expecting children were told that the complex was seniors-only.

On February 21, 2003, after exactly one year of litigation, Judge John Walter signed a Consent Decree and Final Order under which the Defendants must end their illegal practices, pay plaintiffs $51,000 and enter into a two-year fair housing training program.

Marlene Garza, CEO of the Housing Rights Center, stated, “Many housing providers try to keep families with children away by falsely claiming they are seniors-only buildings. But just calling yourself a senior housing provider does not make you one.”

Under the federal fair housing laws, housing discrimination against families with children is permitted only in housing in which all the residents are 62 years of age or older or where at least eighty percent of the occupied units have one person who is 55 years of age or older. California law states that a housing provider using the lower age limitation of 55 years must have at least 35 units to use the familial status discrimination exemption.

The plaintiffs were represented by attorney Cliff Dover of Los Angeles and HRC attorneys Felicia Yearwood and Gary Rhoades.

Housing Rights Center v. Galaxy Apartments et al.
Case No. CV 02-1180 (C.D. Cal. 2003 )
The Honorable John Walter, U.S. District Judge
Complaint filed: February 2002
Consent Order approved by Court: February 2003