The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced it has charged Daniel, Helene and Ava Waisbord, and Rhawn Street Apartments LLC, owners of more than 150 rental units, with violating the Fair Housing Act for refusing to rent a property to a prospective African-American renter, steering the person away from a predominantly white neighborhood, and quoting her a higher rental price to discourage her from renting the home.
“The right to housing without regard to one’s race or color isn’t an option, it’s the law,” said Kim Kendrick, HUD assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity. “We’re working hard to educate housing providers and the public about their fair housing rights and responsibilities, but when a landlord illegally prevents someone from obtaining the housing of their choice, we will take swift enforcement action.”
HUD’s investigation revealed that Karla Baker, who is African-American, met Daniel Waisbord on Gillespie Street in Philadelphia to view a vacant house for rent. Baker liked the house and Waisbord told her a deposit was required to hold the home. Waisbord told her the rent was $775 and that she would have to pay the water bill. Baker asked Waisbord if the rent could be reduced to $750 monthly. Waisbord said that he could not reduce the rent on the property they were viewing, but that he had other properties he could reduce the rent on.
Baker insisted on renting the Gillespie Street property and gave Waisbord a deposit to hold the property. Waisbord then allegedly stated, “The neighbors don’t like me and I am a white man, and they are Germans. I can decrease $25 off the other place, but I can’t rent this place to you, the neighbors won’t like it.”
Waisbord insisted that Baker see other properties he had on Rhawn Street. Baker relented and later viewed the Rhawn Street properties. When Waisbord showed up for the viewing, Baker informed him that she did not like the location and the lack of security, and that she still wanted to rent the Gillespie Street property. Waisbord declined and returned Baker’s deposit.
Less than one month later, Waisbord allegedly rented the house on Gillespie Street to two white renters for $700 a month, plus $42 a month for water.
Among other things, HUD is charging the owners, Daniel, Helene and Ava Waisbord, and Rhawn Street Apartments LLC, with violating the Fair Housing Act for:
- Requiring a higher rent for the Gillespie Street house from Baker than from the white tenants who eventually rented it, because of Baker’s race and color;
- Telling Baker that she could not rent the Gillespie Street property because the neighbors would object to Baker’s race and color;
- Misrepresenting to Baker that the Gillespie Street house was not available for rent to her, because of her race and color; and
- Steering the complainant from renting the property at Gillespie Street on account of her race and color.
A hearing on the charges will be held by a HUD administrative law judge on April 25, 2006, in the Philadelphia area, unless either the complainant or respondent elects to have the case decided by a federal judge in U.S. District Court. An election to go to district court must be made by Feb. 21, 2006.
Housing discrimination charges heard before an administrative law judge carry a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 for a first offense – more if the respondent has committed prior violations of the Act – plus actual damages for the complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorney fees.
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