Archive for housing discrimination

Oakland SRO Lawsuit Settled for $1 Million

In 2015, an investor named Green Group LP purchased a single room occupancy (SRO) building at 524 Eight Street in Oakland’s Chinatown district. SROs are small, one-room rentals where tenants share bathrooms and kitchens as common areas. The rent is generally inexpensive, making SROs a popular option for low-income individuals and families.

The tenants of the Oakland hotel filed a lawsuit in June 2016, claiming that the new owners were attempting to force them to vacate the property by making the building uninhabitable. According to the plaintiffs’ attorney, the owners of the building publicly announced that the building would be renovated to attract higher-income tenants who would be charged higher rents. The suit claims that Green Group LP started renovating the building by demolishing common areas, including kitchens and bathrooms, leaving them unusable for tenants. Some of the renovations lasted for months, with little to no notice for residents. The suit also claims that, though the residents are almost exclusively Chinese, demolition notices were in English and the tenants could not read what the notices said. Residents were also without hot water for long periods of time.

In addition, the residents claim the owners threw out private property, including clothing, children’s toys, Chinese New Year decorations, and other personal items.

The case has been settled for $1 million. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman approved the settlement. The 14 tenants who filed the suit will receive $795,000, while the remaining $205,000 is awarded to the city of Oakland for their legal expenses.

In addition to the settlement, Judge Seligman approved a permanent injunction that requires Green Group LP to provide adequate bathroom facilities for tenants, provide a standard policy for personal belongings within common areas of the building, and notify the city of Oakland in the event of future rent adjustments or evictions.

The city’s attorney, Barbara Parker, stated,“This lawsuit puts unscrupulous property owners on notice that Oakland will hold them accountable for violations of tenants’ rights and will not tolerate owners who make living conditions so miserable that tenants are compelled to move out. Displacing tenants from their homes frequently plunge families into poverty and homelessness and uproots them from the community. Every family that pays rent in Oakland is entitled to decent housing free from harassment and exploitation.”

Deutsche Bank in Dayton Hit with Discrimination Suit

The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) filed charges against Deutsche Bank, and several subsidiaries, for discrimination in minority neighborhoods. The suit filed on February 1 in federal court alleges that Deutsche Bank purposely neglected its foreclosed properties in African-American and Latino neighborhoods in Dayton and in other communities.

The NFHA based its suit on collected evidentiary photographs, as well as a Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) study of neglected homes in the Dayton area from 2011-2016. The NFHA alleges that Ocwen and Altisource, companies that administer property for Deutsche Bank, have largely abandoned foreclosed homes in minority neighborhoods while providing expected upkeep in predominantly white neighborhoods.

The NFHA report examined 36 foreclosed properties owned by Deutsche Bank in the Dayton area. 21 of these homes are in predominantly white neighborhoods with 15 in African-American areas. The reports note that nearly 75 percent of properties in minority neighborhoods had overgrown grass and dead leaves against just one-third of homes in white communities. 40 percent of properties in neighborhoods of color were strewn with garbage compared to 23.8 percent of white homes. 53 percent of homes in African-American communities had dead or dying trees and shrubs, whereas just 28.6 percent of properties in white communities were in the same condition.

Banks are required to maintain foreclosed properties by mowing lawns, maintaining yards, and performing general upkeep.

A Deutsche Bank representative stated that the bank’s only duty is to hold the property as a trustee. However, a representative from Altisource refuted the charges stating that the MVHFC study had been discredited by a 2016 Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) analysis while maintaining that the NFHA’s contentions unfairly characterize Altisource’s record in property preservation.

Dayton is not the only city where such charges have been leveled against Deutsche Bank. The NFHA has sued them for discriminatory practices in 30 other communities across the United States. Nor is it the first time the MVFHC has been involved in such a suit. In 2016, it was part of a coalition of 20 groups which filed discrimination charges against Fannie Mae, a federally-backed manager of property loans and mortgages.

6 Forms Of Housing Discrimination You Should Know

Theoretically, housing discrimination should be a thing of the past. However, enactment of the Federal Fair Housing Act, few reports have indicated that the vice is still present. Recently, a report in the Daily News exposed a landlord who made it difficult for families with small children to get housing. According to the report, Parkoff Organization denied African American a place in one of its Brooklyn apartments.
Where to Report Housing Discrimination
If you are facing housing discrimination, there are various places that you can launch a complaint. Fair Housing Justice Center is one of the areas. The center is responsible for building the case that was reported on the Daily Nation after carrying out investigations.
Discriminatory Practices
There are various forms of housing discrimination that you should know. Some are obvious, while others are a bit technical. Irrespective of its classification, you need to seek legal actions against any form of discrimination because the law is loud and clear about it.
Deliberate Discriminatory Refusal
If a landlord refuses to rent or sell a house based on your race, religion and such unlawful forms of discrimination, it is illegal.
Intentionally Unavailing A House
Like in the case reported, the landlord made a house for rent unavailable because the prospective clients had small kids and were found to be misconduct.
Unequal Terms or conditions
Some landlords make different terms of house renting in a way to discriminate or prevent a specific group of people from accessing housing. Such actions are not only unlawful but offensive. On the investigated report, this offense was spotted where the landlord was charging different amount of rent for the same apartment. It was found that the landlord was charging more than $100 for black testers as compared to the white.
Discriminatory Adverts
This is less common as compared to past years. If you find out that a landlord has printed information barring others from renting or buying property then you know it is unlawful and should be addressed through a legal process.
This can be difficult to identify as it can come in various hidden forms. Some landlords or realtors may harass or threaten you from getting a house. Coercion is another form of intimidation as well as sexual harassment.
It is a profound insult to treat someone differently in as far as housing is concerned. House being a basic need should be free for all to access. Housing practices should be legal, free and fair to all. Heads of Parkoff Organization refused to comment.