The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said today it has charged Georgia Crumbly, a Bonham, Texas, leasing agent, and Johnny Brown, an apartment building owner, with violating the Fair Housing Act for refusing to rent an apartment to an African American, Bennie Rogers, based on his race and color.

HUD’s investigation showed that Rogers saw a newspaper rental advertisement for an apartment at 815 Poplar St. in Bonham. On March 12, 2004, Rogers called and arranged to meet leasing agent Crumbly and view the apartment. While viewing the unit, Crumbly allegedly told Rogers that the owner, Brown, didn’t rent to blacks. Rogers was not offered an application or any paperwork.

Property owner Brown denied that Crumbly worked for him and asserted that he did not have control over her actions. The investigation also found that Crumbly acted as Brown’s agent, showing units, collecting rent, and alerting Brown of vacancies. The investigation also found that once this complaint was filed Brown took away the keys to the units and gave Crumbly’s duties for showing units and collecting rent to another tenant.

Brown denied discriminating against Rogers and asserted that he had not advised Crumbly to discriminate. Crumbly admitted that she told Rogers, “Johnny Brown does not rent to coloreds.” She also stated that she was advised by him not to lease to blacks.

Brown also claimed that he has previously rented to blacks. HUD’s investigation found that he had rented to one black person approximately 10 years ago. That individual was part of an interracial couple. Other than that one tenant, no other blacks have rented a unit owned by Brown, HUD reported.

A hearing on the charges will be held on Feb. 15, 2005. Housing discrimination charges carry a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 for a first offense in addition to actual damages, including emotional distress damages, for the complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorney fees.

HUD is a federal agency that implements housing policy.

***

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