Justice Department Files Fair Housing Suit Against Washington State Apartments
- Jul 19, 2010
Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor
Washington, D.C.–The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a suit against the owner, management company and former on-site manager of Summerhill Place Apartments, a 268-unit apartment complex in Renton, Wash. The lawsuit alleges that, among other things, the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act by steering Indian tenants away from one of the five buildings at the property, treated tenants from India less favorably than other tenants, and discouraged African Americans, Hispanics and families with children from living at Summerhill.
The case had its origin when two Summerhill employees contacted the King County [Wash.] Office of Civil Rights to complain of discriminatory housing practices at the property. King County referred the matter to HUD, which conducted an investigation partly based on sending people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds to pretend they want to rent apartments at the property, to see how management would treat them.
The charge compiled by HUD alleges various forms of discrimination by the defendants, Summerhill Place LLC (the owner of Summerhill Place Apartments), GRAN Inc. (the management company) and Rita Lovejoy (the former on site manager). Included in the HUD charge is the following language:
“From at least 2004 to 2008, Respondent Lovejoy had a practice of discouraging prospective applicants based on race, color and/or national origin when they inquired about renting at Summerhill Apts. Respondent Lovejoy instructed two assistant managers not to show available buildings in Building 5 to black or Indian families because she believed they ruin apartments and she did not like the smell of their cooking.
“Respondent Lovejoy also insisted that her staff show minority applicants apartments with older carpets, countertops and appliances or other undesirable features,” the charge also says. “Respondent Lovejoy stated that she would prefer not to rent an apartment with new carpet or appliances to an Indian tenant because the apartment would be ruined in a year. Respondent Lovejoy also delayed or failed to authorize maintenance in apartments rented to Indians.”
Once HUD determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that discriminatory housing practices had occurred, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice filed suit. The defendants elected to have the charges heard in federal court rather than before an administrative law judge, and the suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.