November 30, 2004
HUD CHARGES TEXAS APARTMENT OWNER AND MANAGER WITH VIOLATION OF FAIR HOUSING ACT
Manager and homeowner accused of not renting to people of color
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said today it has charged Georgia Crumbly, a Bonham, Texas leasing agent and Johnny Brown, an apartment building owner with violating the Fair Housing Act for refusing to rent an apartment an African American, Bennie Rogers, based on his race and color.
HUD's investigation showed that Rogers saw a newspaper rental advertisement for an apartment at 815 Poplar Street in Bonham, TX. On March 12, 2004, Rogers called and arranged to meet Crumbly and view the apartment. While viewing the unit, Crumbly told Rogers that the owner, Brown, didn't rent to blacks. Rogers was not offered an application or any paperwork.
Brown denied that Crumbly worked for him and asserted that he did not have control over her actions. The investigation also found that Crumbly acted as Brown's agent, showing units, collecting rent, and alerting Brown of vacancies. The investigation also found that once this complaint was filed Brown took away the keys to the units and gave Crumbly's duties for showing units and collecting rent to another tenant.
Brown denied discriminating against Rogers and asserted that he had not advised Crumbly to discriminate. Crumbly admitted that she told Rogers "Johnny Brown does not rent to coloreds." She also stated that she was advised by him not to lease to blacks.
Brown also claimed that he has previously rented to blacks. HUD's investigation found that he had rented to one black person approximately ten years ago. That individual was part of interracial couple. Other than that one tenant, no other blacks have rented a unit owned by Brown.
"America has come too far for conditions like this to still exist," said Carolyn Peoples, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "HUD will not hesitate to enforce the Fair Housing Act and ensure that the doors to rental opportunities and homeownership remain open for all."
A hearing on the charges will be held by a U.S. Administrative Law Judge on Feb. 15, 2005, unless either the complainant or respondent elect to have the case decided by a federal judge in U.S. District Court. An election to go to district court must be made by Dec.13, 2004.
Housing discrimination charges heard before an ALJ carry a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 for a first offense in addition to actual damages for the complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorney fees. Sanctions can be more severe if the respondent has previously violated the Fair Housing Act. If either party elects to go to federal district court, either party may request a jury trial and punitive damages.
In either forum, a United States Department of Housing and Urban Development attorney or a Department of Justice attorney brings the case on behalf of the complainant. Each party has the right to be represented by his or her own attorney.
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet and espanol.hud.gov.
People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777. Additional information is available at www.usdoj.gov.