IL family pays $45,000 and quits rental real estate industry to resolve racial discrimination complaint

Cathy Wells, an African American woman from Illinois, and the South Suburban Housing Center have settled a federal racial discrimination lawsuit against the Arrivo family, the owners and managers of several apartment units in Homewood, Illinois. Under the February Consent Decree, the Plaintiffs will receive a $45,000 monetary award and the Arrivos will completely remove themselves from the rental real estate industry. They will no longer manage or market the properties they own.

In June 2002, Wells responded to an online ad for one-bedroom apartments. She contacted Debbie Arrivo and inquired about the available apartments. Wells was told that there were two apartments that she could see. She made an appointment to view the apartments that same day.

Wells met Debbie Arrivo and was shown a single one-bedroom apartment. Debbie Arrivo did not show her the second apartment. Wells took an application. She told Debbie Arrivo that she was interested in renting the apartment. On June 10, 2002, Wells brought the application and a $25 credit check fee to the Defendants. Wells spoke to Debbie Arrivo later that afternoon and confirmed that her application and check had been received. Debbie told Wells that she would get back to her on June 13, 2002.

On June 13, 2002, Wells called Debbie Arrivo to inquire about her application. Debbie Arrivo told Wells that her brother had already rented the apartment. Wells suspected that she was being discriminated against because of her race. She contacted the South
Suburban Housing Center (SSHC). The SSHC commenced an investigation into the rental practices of the Arrivos at their Martin Avenue property in Homewood, only blocks from SSHC’s offices.

Multiple tests revealed racial discrimination

The SSHC initiated multiple housing discrimination tests against the Arrivos. All tests revealed evidence of discrimination. African American testers were given false information about the availability of apartments, were told credit checks would take days while white testers were told it would take hours, and were given appointments at later dates than white testers. Additionally, white testers were contacted and encouraged to rent the apartments, while African Americans repeatedly had to call the Defendants to find out if their applications had been processed.

On June 14, 2002, SSHC had “Joyce,” an African American tester, telephone the Defendants and inquire about an apartment. Debbie Arrivo told Joyce that she would not be able to view the apartment until Tuesday, June 18, 2002. On June 15, 2002, SSHC had a white tester telephone the defendants and inquire about an available apartment. The tester spoke with Michael Arrivo, who made an appointment on Monday, June 17, 2002.

On June 21, 2002, the SSHC sent “Jacqueline”, an African-American tester, to view the
Arrivos’ apartments. Jacqueline met with Debbie Arrivo and was shown Apartment 2C.
She was told it would take “a couple of days” to do a credit check. She was only told about one available apartment.

On June 24, 2002, SSHC sent a white tester to view the Arrivos’ apartments. The tester met Debbie Arrivo who said two units were available. She saw an apartment and was given an application.

On June 27, 2002, Plaintiff Wells telephoned Michael Arrivo. She identified herself and told him that she had noticed the apartments were still advertised “for rent.” Michael Arrivo falsely told Wells that both of the apartments had been rented. That same day, the SSHC had a white tester call Defendants. The tester was told by Debbie Arrivo that there were two one-bedroom apartments available for rent. The tester made an appointment to see the apartment on June 29, 2002. On Friday, June 28, 2002, the white tester went to the Defendants’ building and asked if she could see the apartment that day. Defendant Michael Arrivo took the tester to see both units. He gave her an application and said
he wanted the apartments rented by July 1, 2002.

Using the results of multiple tests, the SSHC filed a federal lawsuit against the Arrivos. The Arrivos settled the lawsuit within six months. SSHC Executive Director John
Petruszak commended Attorney Jeffrey Taren for his “excellent work” on this case.

Wells v. Arrivo
No. 02 C 5238 (N.D. Ill.)
The Honorable Matthew F. Kennelly, U.S. District Judge
Jeffrey L. Taren, attorney for Plaintiffs
Federal complaint filed: July 24, 2002
Consent Order: January 10, 2003