HUD No. 05-171
Antoinette P. Banks
December 16, 2005
HUD CHARGES OREGON LANDLORD WITH A VIOLATION OF FAIR HOUSING ACT
Ballis family members accused of refusing to rent to African-Americans
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it has charged apartment landlords, Ted and Mary Ballis of Portland, Oregon, and Louis Ballis of Louisiana, with violating the Fair Housing Act for refusing to rent an apartment to an interracial couple on the basis of race. Despite meeting with a couple and telling them the apartment "was theirs if they wanted it," Ted Ballis refused to rent the property because the man was black.
HUD's investigation showed that on or about Monday, May 31, 2004, Colleen Hayward, a white woman, called her daughter Deneen Hayward to inform her that she had found an apartment for the daughter and the daughter's boyfriend, Mr. Randolph Kelly, who is black. Colleen Hayward knew the landlords, Ted and Mary Ballis, because her younger daughter, Hayward's sister, had rented a unit at another property owned or managed by the Ted and Mary Ballis.
That same day, Mr. Ted Ballis showed the Haywards and Kelly the property, located at 2648 S.E. 141st Avenue in Portland. The subject apartment is in a nine-unit apartment complex. Ballis told the couple it was theirs if they wanted it. Ballis stated that he did not need references because he knew Hayward's parents. Mr. Ballis provided Ms. Hayward with a rental application and told her to call him if they wanted the apartment.
On the morning of June 2, 2004, Ms. Hayward's mother contacted Mary Ballis, who co-manages the property, to inform Ms. Ballis that her daughter was interested in renting the apartment. Ms. Ballis said the daughter should meet Mr. Ballis at the property with her checkbook later that day.
That same day, two tenants at the subject apartment complex spoke to Ted Ballis about his plans to rent the apartment to Hayward and Kelly. Both tenants threatened to move from the property if he rented to Mr. Kelly, citing problems with a previous African-American male tenant. One of them told Ballis that a third tenant also threatened to move if he rented to Kelly.
When Ms. Hayward and her mother arrived at the property, Mr. Ballis immediately told them there was "a problem." He explained that several long-term tenants had threatened to move if he rented to her, because her boyfriend, Mr. Kelly, is black. He explained that a previous African- American male tenant had caused problems. Ms. Hayward stated to Ballis that it was against the law to discriminate. While apologetic, Ballis replied that he knew this violated the law but that he had to honor the interests of his long-term tenants. Ballis then called his wife, Mary Ballis, and had a brief conversation in their native language, Greek. He then gave the phone to Ms. Hayward. Mary Ballis stated, "I'm sorry, we can't rent the apartment to you." At the conclusion of the phone call, Ms. Hayward was in tears and again stated to Ted Ballis that what he was doing was against the law. Ballis merely replied, "I know, but what am I going to do?"
On April 1, April 18, and June 1, 2005, respectively, the Fair Housing Council of Oregon, (FHCO) Daneen Hayward, and Randolph Kelly filed complaints with HUD. HUD's investigation found the Ballises had engaged in unlawful discrimination based on race. FHCO interviewed Ms. Hayward and Mr. Kelly. FHCO also designed two paired tests of the Ballis property, where they sent testers posing as black and white prospective renters. The Ballises encouraged applications from the white testers while discouraging the black testers. The apartment was eventually leased to white tenants.
"The Fair Housing Act guarantees every person the right to live where they choose without regard to race. No one should be subjected to this type of humiliation when they are simply looking for a home," said Kim Kendrick, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on seven bases: race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians; pregnant women, and people securing custody of children under 18) and disability.
Housing discrimination charges heard before an ALJ carry a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 for a first offense - more if the respondent has committed prior violations of the Act - plus actual damages for the complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorney fees.
Should either party elect to go to district court, either party may request a jury trial. A district court may award the damages available in an administrative proceeding, and may also award punitive damages.
In either forum, the case is brought on behalf of the complainant, and the complaint is enforced by an attorney from HUD before a U.S. Administrative Law Judge or by an Assistant United States Attorney or an attorney from the U.S. Department of Justice in federal district court. Also, 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 on the Internet and www.usdoj.gov.