The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement with the owners and managers of housing in Honolulu, Hawaii, to resolve a lawsuit filed last year alleging that the defendants refused to rent to families with children at properties they owned and managed, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
Today’s agreement, which is in the form a consent decree and still must be approved by the court, resolves a lawsuit alleging that Hawaii Student Suites Inc., Hawaii Student Residences LLC d/b/a Hawaii Student Suites, Savio Hauoli Street LLC, and 258-60 Beach Walk LLC engaged in unlawful familial status discrimination in connection with three properties in Honolulu: Beachwalk, Kalo Terrace, and Pacific Villa. Specifically, the complaint alleged that the defendants discriminated against families with children by: (1) refusing to rent to or negotiate for the rental of the three properties on the basis of familial status; (2) steering prospective renters with children who inquired about housing away from these properties to a separate property management company; and (3) making discouraging and other discriminatory statements to potential renters with children who inquired about housing, including that the housing was not “suitable” or the right “fit” for families with children.
“Many families across the country are struggling right now to find housing, and they should not also have to endure discrimination that makes finding a place to live even more difficult,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “It is illegal to refuse to rent to families with children, and the Justice Department is committed to vigorously enforcing the Fair Housing Act and seeking relief for families harmed by unlawful discrimination.”
“The Fair Housing Act promotes the public interest in prohibiting discrimination on the basis of familial status,” said U.S. Attorney Kenji Price for the District of Hawaii. “This settlement advances society’s strong interest in ensuring equal access to private student housing in Hawaii by those who chose to enjoy the beauty of family life. My office is committed to protecting these families by enforcing the law.”
Under the consent decree, the defendants must:
- Pay a total monetary settlement of $80,000, consisting of a $70,000 settlement fund that will be used to compensate families that were harmed by defendants’ practices, as well as $10,000 to the United States as a civil penalty;
- Adopt non-discriminatory policies and practices that ensure compliance with the Fair Housing Act;
- Conduct employee training to ensure compliance with the Fair Housing Act; and
- Submit to record keeping and monitoring requirements for the three-year period of the consent decree.
The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii brought this matter to the department’s attention after conducting testing which, as the complaint alleges, showed discrimination against families with children in connection with the defendants’ properties. Today’s settlement also resolves claims brought in a separate complaint by one of Legal Aid Society’s testers.
Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of familial status discrimination or other types of housing discrimination at rental dwellings owned or managed by the defendants, or who have other information that may be relevant to this case, can contact the Housing Discrimination Tip Line, at 1-800-896-7743, and select mailbox 998 to leave a message.
Individuals can also report housing discrimination by submitting a report online at www.civilrights.justice.gov.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at http://www.justice.gov/crt.