HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 00-229
Further Information: For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685 Friday
Or contact your local HUD office September 1, 2000


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today charged the owner and manager of a Belleville, IL, apartment house with housing discrimination for refusing to rent to a woman because she is black, Secretary Andrew Cuomo announced.

HUD filed the charge on behalf of Wanakee Holman against the owner and manager of a four-unit apartment building located at 62 Hillside in Belleville. The property is owned by Dennis Fournie and managed by Patrick Daniels.

"Discrimination that comes with a smile is just as common and just as insidious as more blatant forms of discrimination," Cuomo said. "But regardless of how it is presented, all discrimination is equally illegal and intolerable. No smile can hide its ugly face."

Holman, whose voice is racially identifiable, told HUD that in July 1999 she called the rental office about an ad she saw for an apartment and was told by Daniels the unit had been rented. About a week later, Holman noticed the same unit was still being advertised for rent. When she called a second time about the apartment she was again told that that it was rented.

Later, while driving around the neighborhood looking for a place to live, Holman noticed that the same unit appeared to be empty. She asked one of the neighboring tenants if it was occupied and was told it was not. The neighbor, who is white, called the rental office on Holman’s behalf and was told it was available.

In early August, Holman telephoned Daniels a third time about the apartment and was told for a third time that it had been rented. Holman then asked some co-workers to call. A black co-worker who called was told nothing was available, while two white co-workers were told just the opposite.

Holman then filed a discrimination complaint in August with HUD, which began investigating the allegations. Investigators interviewed a number of witnesses who corroborated Holman’s allegations. HUD determined that the unit was still vacant when Holman filed her complaint, and that it was finally rented in September to a white man who first applied after Holman was rejected.

Fournie and Daniels deny discriminating against Holman.

"I've always known that racism exists but to experience it personally disappoints me greatly," Holman said. "I'm grateful that HUD is there to confront racism by enforcing the Fair Housing Act."

Housing discrimination charges heard before an Administrative Law Judge carry a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 -- provided there are no prior violations of the Act -- plus actual damages, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorney fees. If either party requests a trial in federal district court, the federal judge can award punitive damages.

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, insuring and advertising of most of the nation’s housing. Fair housing investigations are conducted by HUD investigators, state and city agencies working with HUD, and by private fair housing groups that receive HUD funds.

People who believe they've been harmed by housing discrimination can file complaints with HUD by calling 1-800-669-9777.


Content Archived: December 13, 2009