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Fair Housing Center Settles Federal Race Discrimination Suit on Eve of MLK Holiday

Posted on 20. Jan, 2014 by

On Friday, January 17, 2014, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) settled a federal lawsuit against landlord Gerald Ditta. The suit alleged that Ditta violated the federal Fair Housing Act by engaging in a pattern of systemic race discrimination in the rental of his Gretna, LA property.  As a result of the settlement, Ditta will pay $50,000 to GNOFHAC and the named plaintiff. Further, Ditta will relinquish rental management of his properties to a local real estate management company for the next three years.

The plaintiffs’ March 2013 complaint alleged that Ditta repeatedly misrepresented the availability of his rental property to African-Americans because of their race. The named plaintiff, GNOFHAC’s client, called Ditta in response to an advertisement for his rental property. Ditta told her that his apartment was not available to rent. However, the advertisement reappeared a few weeks later. When the client again called Ditta about the ad, Ditta again told her the apartment was not available.  The client became suspicious and contacted GNOFHAC.

GNOFHAC conducted an investigation of the property in which it sent trained mystery shoppers posing as apartment seekers to inquire about the property’s availability.  The investigation uncovered that each time an African-American mystery shopper contacted Ditta about the apartment, Ditta said that it was rented and did not invite them to view it.  In contrast, Mr. Ditta invited GNOFHAC’s white mystery shoppers to view the apartment.  In total, Ditta told three African-American mystery shoppers on five occasions that the apartment was rented and did not offer them a showing, while offering to show the apartment to three white mystery shoppers during the same time period.

In addition to the monetary payment and relinquishing control of the rental of his properties, the settlement requires that Mr. Ditta receive fair housing training; that his properties be advertised in minority media; that he implement and adhere to a non-discrimination policy; that he implement written rental criteria to ensure equal opportunity access to his rental properties; and that his tenants receive “know your rights” fair housing literature.

James Perry, GNOFHAC Executive Director, said, “At the urging of President Lyndon Johnson, Congress passed the federal Fair Housing Act seven days after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Johnson called on Congress to honor Dr. King’s legacy by ending housing discrimination. Regrettably, 46 years after Dr. King’s death, this settlement provides evidence that discrimination persists. The Fair Housing Center is committed to honoring Dr. King by seeing to it that his dream of fair housing opportunity becomes reality.”

The plaintiffs were represented by Alexander Bollag, Aurora Bryant, Elizabeth Owen and Christopher Brancart, of the law firm Brancart & Brancart.

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The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) is a private nonprofit organization. GNOFHAC is dedicated to eliminating housing discrimination and furthering equal housing opportunities through education, outreach, advocacy, and enforcement of fair housing laws across the metro New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas. The activities described in this release were privately funded.

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