Property managers at two housing complexes in Lake Elsinore, California, were forced to pay $8,000 each in fines for alleged racial discrimination against prospective tenants, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced yesterday.

The Fair Housing Council of Riverside County filed complaints with HUD against Sierra Vista Apartments and Grand Oaks Apartments after conducting fair housings tests and discovering the discrimination. The tests found that the property managers at the two complexes allegedly refused rent, cited different terms and conditions, and misrepresented the availability of units to testers based on their race and national origin.

“Denying someone an apartment because of how they look or where they come from not only deprives them of a home, it is against the law,” said Anna María Farías, HUD assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity. “Today’s agreement reaffirms HUD’s commitment to ensuring that every person, no matter their race or national origin, has access to the housing of their choice.”

In addition to the individual fines of $8,000, the agreement will require that employees at the complexes take fair housing training. It will also require the complexes amend their rental qualification criteria to remove the requirement that applicants have “no criminal or police record of any kind,” and develop and implement a nondiscriminatory criminal record policy.

Discriminating against a prospective tenant based on his or her race or national origin is a violation of the Fair Housing Act, passed in 1968 as part of the Civil Rights Act. The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin in the renting or selling of housing.

Earlier this month, HUD announced it settled three separate lawsuits for sexual harassment in the renting of property, which is also a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

HUD is also delaying an Obama-era anti-discrimination policy. Activists are suing the administration, arguing that the policy makes the goals of the Fair Housing Act more tangible.

Email Patrick Kearns

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