Madison, WI (WXOW) - The manager and owner of the Geneva Terrace Apartments Inc. in La Crosse, Wis., have agreed to pay $57,500 to settle a lawsuit alleging they violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against African-Americans who were seeking to rent apartments at the complex.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin on Oct. 26, 2011, alleged that Nicolai Quinn, the manager of the apartment complex, told prospective African-American renters that apartments were not available when they were, while telling prospective white renters that there were apartments available.
"Nobody should be denied housing in this country because of their race." said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights. "The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, and we will continue to vigorously enforce the law to ensure access to housing regardless of the race of an applicant."
As alleged in the complaint, in 2009 and 2010, Quinn told an African-American couple who were interested in renting an apartment in Geneva Terrace that there were no apartments available, even though the complex had posted a sign advertising vacancies. The couple found it suspicious and asked a white friend to contact the complex. Quinn told the white friend that he had available apartments. The couple then reported their experience to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council (MMFHC), a nonprofit fair housing organization. MMFHC conducted fair housing tests, which confirmed that Quinn was telling African Americans that apartments were not available while showing available apartments to white persons.
The couple also filed a complaint with HUD, which conducted an investigation and, after issuing a charge of discrimination, referred the matter to the Department of Justice.
Under the terms of the settlement, which is subject to approval by the U.S. District Court, the defendants will pay the complainants $47,500 in damages. Defendants will also pay a civil penalty of $10,000 to the United States. Defendant Geneva Terrace Apartments LLC will also develop and maintain non-discrimination housing policies and attend fair housing training.
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