Justice Department settles Summerville housing discrimination lawsuit
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department announced today that John Wingard Altman has agreed to pay $25,000 to settle a lawsuit involving violations of the Fair Housing Act at Altman Apartments, a 16-unit apartment complex he owns in Summerville, S.C. In July 2012, the court, ruling on a motion filed by the government, found that the defendant had violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against families with children.
Under the consent order, which was approved today by the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, the defendant must pay $15,000 to two people who were harmed by the defendant's discriminatory practices and $10,000 to the United States as a civil penalty. In addition, the order prohibits the defendant from engaging in discrimination against families with children in the future and requires that he adopt a non-discrimination policy in addition to receiving training on the Fair Housing Act.
"The Fair Housing Act protects families with children against housing discrimination," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "Providing an equal opportunity for families with children to access housing without discrimination is required by law critical and we will vigorously enforce the law to ensure all families have access to housing."
"This office follows the lead of the Department of Justice's strong stance to ensure that access to one of the most basic of human needs, shelter, is not impeded by prejudice," said William M. Nettles, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina.
Filed in September 2011, the lawsuit alleged that Mr. Altman, through published advertisements and statements to testers, maintained a policy or practice of discouraging families with children from living in the apartment complex. Testers are individuals who pose as renters to gather information about possible discriminatory practices; the evidence in this case was obtained by the department's Fair Housing Testing Program.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Fair housing enforcement is a priority of the Civil Rights Division. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.