New Orleans- Today, a federal court entered a consent judgment resolving a lawsuit that the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) had filed against landlords Brion, Jappy and John Ebey, Jr., and Lime Investment Company. The suit alleged that the defendants violated the federal Fair Housing Act by engaging in a pattern of racial discrimination in the rental of an apartment in Metairie, Louisiana. The suit alleged that defendants denied both GNOFHAC clients and GNOFHAC mystery shoppers the opportunity to rent. Further, the suit alleged that the defendants kept a written record studded with racist slurs and epithets based on interactions with prospective renters, including GNOFHAC testers. As a result of the settlement, the defendants will pay $172,500 in damages.
In response to suspected discrimination at the apartment, GNOFHAC conducted an undercover investigation of the housing providers’ rental practices and discovered the alleged discrimination. The complaint alleged that the defendants repeatedly misrepresented the availability of advertised rental property to African Americans because of their race, refused to rent to African Americans, and, most egregiously, kept a handwritten list of prospective tenants, upon which were written various notations, including racial epithets. GNOFHAC sent trained mystery shoppers posing as apartment seekers to inquire about the property’s availability on seven different occasions. The investigation uncovered that each time an African American mystery shopper contacted the Ebeys about the apartment, a hand notation with the “n- word” was written next to the prospective renter’s name on a handwritten list. Further, GNOFHAC’s African American mystery shoppers who inquired were not shown the apartment, while GNOFHAC’s white mystery shoppers were.
In addition to paying damages, the consent judgment requires that for a period of five years, the Ebeys:
- Keep and provide detailed records of prospective tenants seeking housing;
- Provide GNOFHAC with semi-annual reports on Lime Investment Company rental applications and lease agreements;
- Adopt and adhere to a written rental policy and a non-discrimination policy;
- Provide all current and prospective tenants with a “know your fair housing rights” brochure; and
- Receive fair housing training.
Cashauna Hill, GNOFHAC Executive Director, comments, “Racial discrimination in housing is illegal and unacceptable. Our investigations uncovered clear evidence of egregious and blatant discrimination against prospective African American tenants, solely on the basis of their race. These kinds of discriminatory practices persist in our area’s rental markets, and we encourage anyone who suspects they may have been discriminated against while trying to rent a home to report their suspicions to the Fair Housing Action Center.”