The Justice Department filed a lawsuit today against the owners and manager of the Westland Apartments (Westland), a 28-unit apartment complex in Lakewood, Colorado, alleging that they have discriminated against families with children in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado in Denver, alleges that the defendants have implemented a policy of generally not allowing families with children to live in the front building at Westland, and generally restricting them to apartments in the rear building instead. The suit was filed against Roger and Eileen Loecher, who own Westland, and Miriam Yehudah, the resident property manager.
“Apartment owners cannot limit where children live in their apartment complexes,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “If an apartment is within their budget and meets their needs, the family, not the landlord, should be able to decide whether it is appropriate for them.”
“The Fair Housing Act ensures that all Americans have equal access to housing, a basic human need,” said U.S. Attorney John F. Walsh of the District of Colorado. “This case involved a shocking and direct violation. The complaint filed in federal district court demonstrates that the U.S. Attorney’s Office, working with our partners at the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will not allow those who rent properties to discriminate against families with children.”
The lawsuit arose from a complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by the Denver Metro Fair Housing Center, a non-profit organization that works to promote equal housing opportunities in the Denver metropolitan area. The center sent testers posing as prospective renters to Westland to determine whether they were complying with the Fair Housing Act. The center’s testing revealed that Westland’s property manager told prospective renters that families with children were generally placed in apartments in the rear building, and did not offer prospective renters with children the opportunity to consider available apartments in the front building. After investigating the complaint, HUD determined that Westland was violating the Fair Housing Act and issued a charge of discrimination. After one of the parties chose to have the charge litigated in federal court, the matter was referred to the Justice Department.
“Families looking for a safe place to call home shouldn’t have that housing limited to certain units of a complex,” said HUD Assistant Secretary Gustavo Velasquez of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “That kind of steering is not only unfair – it is against the law. HUD will continue to work with the Justice Department to take action when the rental policies of housing providers violate the rights of families with children.”
The suit seeks monetary damages for the Fair Housing Center and other persons who were harmed by the defendants’ conduct, civil penalties and a court order barring future discrimination and requiring additional preventive measures.
The complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct. The allegations must still be proven in federal court.
Individuals who believe they may have been discriminated against at Westland because they have children, or who may have other information about this lawsuit should contact the Justice Department toll-free at 1-800-896-7743, mailbox 92, or e-mail the Justice Department at email@example.comEmail links icon. Westland is located at 9905 West 21st Avenue in Lakewood.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt. Persons who believe that they have experienced unlawful housing discrimination elsewhere can contact the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.orgEmail links icon or contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.