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CUOMO ANNOUNCES CHICAGO-AREA LANDLORDS ACCUSED OF HOUSING DISCRIMINATION AGREE TO PAY INTERRACIAL COUPLE $65,000
WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo today announced that two suburban Chicago landlords - accused of refusing to rent to an interracial couple and for turning away other blacks - have agreed to pay a $65,000 settlement.
In a conciliation agreement announced today, landlords Barbara Civik and her brother, Kenneth Civik, of Wauconda, IL, have agreed to pay $50,000 to Eric and Beth King, and $15,000 to the HOPE Fair Housing Center in Wheaton, IL.
"The message of this settlement is that housing discrimination does not pay," Cuomo said. "Such acts are outrageous, illegal and intolerable. We will not allow illegal discrimination to stop families across this nation from living in any home, in any apartment or in any neighborhood they can afford."
The Kings were trying to move this spring from Marietta, GA, to the Chicago area when they responded to a newspaper ad for a house owned by the Civiks and managed by Barbara Civik. Eric, who is black, and Beth, who is white, and their 20-month-old daughter went to see the property on March 17th. Barbara Civik, who manages the property, showed them the house but when the couple called back that night saying they wanted to sign a lease, Civik allegedly told them she would not rent to an interracial couple because she feared for their safety, and because she was afraid the property would be damaged, among other explanations.
"I was just shocked by her blatancy," said Eric King of her comments.
Beth King added, "After what she said started to sink in, I just had a nagging feeling of hurt. We've been together for 11 years and we never experienced any problems when we lived in the South. For this to be my first experience in the Midwest was really astonishing."
The Kings filed a complaint with HUD and then contacted HOPE for legal representation, and it sent testers acting as prospective tenants to two of the Civiks' properties, including the one the Kings had wanted to live in. HOPE conducted several tests between March 18-20. Barbara Civik is alleged to have told each black tester that she was not a racist but that she was concerned for the safety of the applicant and concerned about damage to her property.
"This victory is the result of a partnership between HUD and HOPE Fair Housing Center, working together to uncover and eliminate illegal housing discrimination whenever and wherever it occurs," said Bernard Kleina, HOPE Executive Director. "This successful ongoing partnership brings hope to many who are victimized by housing discrimination." HOPE, which receives HUD grants to fight housing discrimination, serves DuPage, Kane and 28 other counties in northern and north central Illinois.
After the problems in renting the house from the Civiks, Beth King and her daughter stayed behind in Georgia while Eric, an area sales manager, stayed in the Chicago area in temporary housing. The Kings just recently purchased a home in the Chicago area.
"We decided to buy a house so as not to endure more problems with renting," said Eric King. Although Eric started his job in September, he had hoped his family could join him in March and said that the incident with the Civiks prolonged that move three more months. "It was stressful not having them here. And it just added more stress in general to an already difficult process of relocating," he said.
Secretary Cuomo added: "I'm proud that as America this year commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, passed as a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, we are able to honor him not just with words but with action that carries forward his fight against discrimination."
The Fair Housing Act bars housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, family status and national origin. The Act covers the sale, rental, financing and advertising of almost all housing in the nation. Fair housing investigations are conducted by HUD investigators, state and city agencies working with HUD, and private fair housing groups that receive HUD funds.
A finding by an administrative law judge that the Fair Housing Act has been violated carries a top penalty of $11,000 in civil penalties for a first offense and $55,000 for later offenses. Additional penalties include: monetary compensation to victims for actual damages, humiliation, mental distress, and loss of their fair housing rights; attorney fees; and court costs. A finding by a federal court of a violation may include an assessment of punitive damages, as well as compensation for victims.
President Clinton's proposed 1999 federal budget seeks $22 million in increased funding for HUD to intensify the fight against housing discrimination. The 73 percent increase for HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity would boost spending by the office to $52 million. If approved by Congress, it would be the largest single budget increase in civil rights law enforcement in two decades.
The Fair Housing Act covers the sale, rental, financing and advertising of almost all housing in the nation. People who believe they have been harmed by housing discrimination can file complaints with HUD by calling 1-800-669-9777 or by filing a complaint with HUD over the Internet.
Content Archived: January 20, 2009