New Orleans landlords Betty Bouchon, the Bouchon Limited Family Partnership and Sapphire Corp., have agreed to pay $70,000 in damages and civil penalties to settle a lawsuit alleging they unlawfully denied housing to African-American prospective renters at a 16-unit apartment building located in New Orleans.
In December 2010, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center(GNOFHAC) filed suit against the Bouchon Family Limited Partnership and Betty Bouchon after receiving two unrelated complaints of discrimination by housing consumers. Both complained that the Bouchons were using race to discriminate against renters at a housing complex located at 4905 and 4919 Canal Street in New Orleans. Over the course of more than a year, GNOFHAC tested the property for discrimination by sending mystery shoppers to attempt to rent units at the complex. During the process, the mystery shoppers documented discrimination by Ms. Bouchon, who failed to return phone calls from African-American testers while returning phone calls from white testers, made statements to white testers indicating that she would not rent to African-Americans, and falsely told an African-American tester that an apartment was not available for rent when in fact it was available. Listen to recordings of statements made by Ms. Bouchon at www.gnofairhousing.org.
The Louisiana Department of Justice found that there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination took place. The United States Department of Justice settlement will resolve the litigation alleging that the defendants discriminated against African- Americans seeking housing at the apartment building in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, based on GNOFHAC’s testing evidence.
Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants will pay $50,000 to GNOFHAC and a total of $20,000 in civil penalties to the United States. The settlement also requires the defendants to adopt non-discriminatory policies and procedures, keep detailed records of inquiries from prospective tenants and of rental transactions, and submit periodic reports over the four-year term of the settlement.
GNOFHAC Executive Director James Perry said, “Racial discrimination in housing is illegal and unacceptable. The terms of this settlement will help to prevent the ongoing occurrence of housing discrimination and we are pleased with it. GNOFHAC will continue to produce high quality testing evidence to ensure equal housing opportunity throughout the New Orleans area.”
8-29-11 Read the Consent Order here.
8-30-11 Read the NOLA.COM article here.
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