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HUD No. 10-241
Shantae Goodloe
(202) 708-0685
FOR RELEASE
Monday
October 18, 2010
HUD CHARGES MISSISSIPPI PROPERTY MANAGER AND OWNER WITH RACE DISCRIMINATION

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today announced that it is charging Vicksburg, Mississippi, rental property owner Richard Cowart and his property manager, Janie Kelly, with violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to renew the lease of a white tenant at Shamrock Apartments because the tenant associated with African Americans and has a biracial daughter. The HUD charge also alleges the property manager made discriminatory statements about renting to African Americans and tenants associating with African Americans. 

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate in housing because of race or color, which includes making discriminatory statements with respect to the rental of a dwelling.

"No one should be denied a place to live because of the race of their family members or friends," said John Trasviña, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity."HUD is committed to ending housing discrimination in all forms and in all places."

Specifically, HUD’s charge alleges that after Ms. Kelly discovered that an African-American man had visited a tenant’s apartment, Kelly informed the tenant that she was not permitted to have visitors who were not listed on her lease. Two months later, after a neighbor called the police when he saw an African-American man knocking on the tenant’s door, Kelly notified the tenant that her lease would not be renewed.  

The charge further alleges that Kelly told a prospective tenant that she was trying to "weed out" all the black people to make the apartment complex a "better place" to live.  In addition, a resident told a HUD investigator that Kelly told her that she did not like renting to black people, especially black men, because all they did was cause trouble and because she wanted the white women living at Shamrock to feel safe living there.

The HUD Charge of Discrimination will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) unless any party to the Charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an ALJ finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, the judge may award damages to the aggrieved persons for the damages caused them by the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney fees.  In addition, the judge may impose fines in order to vindicate the public interest.  If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages to the aggrieved persons.

FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate more than 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 (voice), 800-927-9275 (TTY).

HUD investigates over 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 (voice), 800-927-9275 (TTY). Additional information is available at www.hud.gov/fairhousing. Stay on top of the most up-to-date news regarding the Fair Housing Act by signing up for the FHEO RSS Feed at www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/index.cfm.

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