An Illinois landlord has been charged with violating the Fair Housing Act for refusing to rent on the basis of race, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said today.

The agency charged Doris Rofrano of East Moline, Ill., with violating the Fair Housing Act when she allegedly refused to rent a townhouse in East Moline to African-Americans.

Rofrano ran a rental ad in the local newspaper, the Argus Dispatch, from Aug. 20 to Aug. 26, 2004, according to a HUD investigation. Carol Collins, an African-American, and her son Troy Collins, the prospective renter, allegedly responded to the ad.

When the two arrived to view the property, HUD said, Rofrano was apparently surprised to see that Carol Collins was African-American, and allegedly said, “I do not rent to colored people.”

“No family should be subjected to this type of humiliation when they are simply looking for a home,” said Floyd May, HUD’s general deputy assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “The right to live where you want, without regard to race is one of the cornerstones of the Fair Housing Act.”

Carol Collins convinced Rofrano to let her see the apartment by telling Rofrano that although she was African-American, her husband was Caucasian, according to HUD. Collins does not have a Caucasian husband, but said so in order to be allowed to see the unit, HUD said.

After viewing the townhouse with her son, who was the prospective renter, Carol Collins tried unsuccessfully to pay the deposit and sign a lease, according to HUD.

Rofrano continually rebuffed attempts to rent the townhouse and eventually told the Collins family that the property was off the market and not to call again, HUD alleged. The property was eventually placed back on the market and rented to someone who was not African-American, according to HUD.

A hearing on the charges against Rofrano will be held by a U.S. Administrative Law Judge on Oct. 25, 2005 in the Chicago area, unless either the complainant or respondent elect 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 Aug. 24, 2005, HUD said.

Housing discrimination charges heard before an ALJ 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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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to janis@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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