Husband and wife accused of violating Fair Housing Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 22, 2008 – (RealEstateRama) — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced it is charging a Louisiana couple with racial discrimination in connection with the sale of a privately owned townhome. HUD claims Reggie and Kimberly Collier complained to a local real estate firm showing the home and threatened to deny the new owners utilities after they observed an African-American woman viewing the property. The African-American woman was, in fact, a sales agent representing prospective homebuyers who were white.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against persons in the sale or rental of housing because of race or color. Such discrimination includes interfering with the sale of a property and refusal to provide housing-related services.
Reggie and Kimberly Colliers are white and the former owners of the “Camp Joy Marina” development in Haughton, Louisiana. In September 2004, Reggie Collier observed an African-American woman and a white couple viewing a property for sale in the development. Believing the African-American sales agent to be the potential homebuyer, Collier allegedly called the office of the real estate firm listing the property and stated that he did not want “those kinds of people” moving into the development. In addition, Collier allegedly threatened to disconnect water and sewer service to the home if the firm sold the home to African-Americans. HUD also alleges Collier requested names, employment information, and social security and driver’s license numbers to perform background checks. However, he did not request this information of the previous person who considered buying the home, who was white.
As a result of Mr. Collier’s comments and threats, the prospective buyers withdrew their offer to purchase the property fearing they would encounter problems when their African-American friends visited. Another white couple later bought the home.
“Four decades ago this month, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law in order to help rid the nation of the outrageous housing discrimination African-Americans encountered in 1968.” said Kim Kendrick, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Now 40 years later, we are fighting the same battles. HUD will continue to enforce the law on behalf of all persons whether they are buyers, sellers, or agents.”
The HUD charge now goes before an administrative law judge who may award damages to each complainant for actual loss as a result of the alleged discrimination, as well as damages for emotional distress, humiliation, and loss of civil rights. The judge may also order injunctive and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination. Additionally, the judge may impose a maximum civil penalty of $16,000 for each violation for the first offense, in addition to actual damages for each complainant and order payment of attorneys’ fees. Sanctions can be more severe if a respondent has a history of housing discrimination.
HUD and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate more 10,000 housing discrimination complaints each year. People who believe they have faced 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 an RSS Feed on HUD’s website.
HUD is the nation’s housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development and enforces the nation’s fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov.