Akron Apartments Pay $175, 000 In Rental Testing Settlement with Justice Dept.

The owners and managers of an Akron, Ohio apartment complex who allegedly refused to rent to African Americans have agreed to pay $175,000 in damages and penalties, the Justice Department announced in July. The agreement represents the largest rental housing discrimination settlement ever reached in Ohio.

The agreement settles a suit filed in April 1993 against the owners and managers of Park Lane Manor, the largest multifamily housing development in Akron.

The suit alleged that the defendants refused to rent apartments to blacks, imposed different conditions on blacks than on whites and told blacks that vacant apartments were not available when in fact they were, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.

Tests By Akron Fair Housing Contact Services

The case stemmed from a Justice Department fair housing testing program and testing conducted by the Fair Housing Contact Services, Inc., an Akron-based private fair housing organization. Under the program, trained pairs of black and white testers posed as prospective tenants, then officials compared the way in which blacks and whites were treated.

"The sign may say welcome, but the door remains closed," said Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, Deval L. Patrick. "This settlement should warn all housing providers that the Justice Department is now equipped and actively working to uncover unlawful discrimination in housing wherever it may exist."

17 Suits; 7 Settlements For $1 Million Plus

This is the 17th suit brought by the Justice Department as a result of its testing program initiated in 1991. Seven cases have resulted in settlements totaling more than $1 million, while ten cases are pending. Currently, the Justice Department is conducting testing in more than a dozen other cities.

Under the agreement filed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, the defendants agreed to pay $25,000 in civil penalties and $150,000 in damages to any identified victims of the discriminatory practices.

They also must advertise in local papers to locate victims of past discrimination and train their employees in fair housing practices.

The Fair Housing Contact Services provided the Justice Department with its initial testing evidence, which the Department confirmed with its testing at the 300-unit cooperative in the Firestone Park neighborhood.

Cooperation Effective

"The cooperative between public and private fair housing efforts has proven to be very effective in enforcing fair housing laws and ensuring that all people can live where they choose regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, family status or handicap," added Patrick.

Individuals who believe they may have been the victims of housing discrimination in the Akron metropolitan area should call the Fair Housing Contact Services Inc. at 216/376-6191 or the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section of the Justice Department at 202/514-4713.

Those who believe they may have been the victims of housing discrimination anywhere else in the United States should call either the Justice Department at 202-514-4713 or the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Fair Housing Hotline at 1-800-669-9777.