A Florida fair housing center is suing a condo association in the state after alleged racist and anti-Jewish statements by the association’s president and the alleged discriminatory rejection of a prospective resident.
The Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches, and the prospective buyer of a High Point condo, Elois G. Thomas, filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida against the High Point of Delray Beach Condominium Association, Section 1, and the association’s president and vice president.
The association’s president, Charles Jordan, allegedly told Dunia Keldani, a Realtor representing the seller of a condo unit, that he would not accept Thomas’ application because of her skin color. After viewing a copy of Thomas’ driver’s license photo, Jordan allegedly told Keldani, “she’s black, and I will not accept this application because we will not have any black people moving here,” the lawsuit states.
Also, Jordan allegedly told Keldani that “black people usually run day-care centers from their homes” and that “he didn’t want that to happen at High Point.”
The lawsuit alleges, “Jordan … blatantly and overtly admitted to … Keldani that he prides himself in the fact that there were only about six Jewish families in High Point Section 1 and that those families moved in before he became president of the association, otherwise they wouldn’t be there.”
Jordan also allegedly questioned where Thomas would get the money to purchase the condo unit, and allegedly “instructed … Keldani to return the application back to … Thomas’ Realtor … and to tell her that he needed proof that her income was between $1,200 and $1,500 per month.” Even if Thomas was financially qualified, Jordan allegedly told Keldani that “he would continue to stall so that … Thomas would become ‘discouraged enough to move on.'”
Keldani, a Realtor at RE/MAX Advantage Plus in Delray Beach, Fla., allegedly told Thomas’ Realtor, Rhonda Boles of Century 21 America’s Choice in West Palm Beach, Fla., about her conversation with Jordan. Boles did not initially inform Thomas about Jordan’s statements, according to the lawsuit, “for fear of causing her emotional stress and disappointment,” and instead contacted Jordan directly “with the hope that in spite of his immediate rejection … that he may have changed his mind.”
The lawsuit alleges that Jordan directed Boles to the association’s lawyer, Larry Shendell, and Shendell did not respond to Boles’ repeated calls. Keldani issued a formal complaint to the Fair Housing Center on Aug. 24, about three weeks after meeting with Jordan.
Representatives for the association, and association lawyer Larry Shendell, did not respond to Inman News’ calls seeking comment about the lawsuit.
Thomas, 69, reportedly purchased another condo unit at a higher cost in a separate section of the development that is governed by a separate condo association after her application was denied by the Section 1 association board on Sept. 10.
Jene P. Williams-Rhoads, a lawyer for Liggio, Benrubi & Williams in West Palm Beach, Fla., who is representing Thomas and the Fair Housing Center, said this week, “It’s our position and allegation that (Jordan) had sway over the board, and also the vice president of the association took the same position based upon the lead of Mr. Jordan.”
Williams-Rhoads added, “We’re seeing an increase in these types of complaints in Palm Beach County. Generally, most people don’t know when they’re discriminated against.” There is a housing crisis and a shortage of housing in the region, she said. “This situation is very egregious in light of the fact there is a housing crisis.”
The lawsuit calls upon the court to declare that the condo association has violated federal fair housing law and seeks to block the association and its leadership “from engaging in any future acts of denying persons equal housing opportunities on account of race and/or color or religion.” The lawsuit also seeks compensatory damages for Thomas and the fair housing center, and punitive damages for the allegedly “intentional and willful nature of the … conduct.”
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