January 14th, 2022
New Orleans, LA—Today, the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center announced the settlement of a federal family status and racial discrimination lawsuit against Tall Pines, LLC and their manager and rental agent, Carey Rizzuto, in Slidell, Louisiana. The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Rizzuto engaged in a pattern of discrimination against African Americans by lying about whether apartments were available and refusing to follow up with inquiring prospective applicants. Mr. Rizzuto is also accused of making discriminatory comments towards families with children while openly stating his practice of segregating families with children into one specific area.
In January of 2019, LaFHAC mystery shoppers—or testers—posing as prospective renters, contacted Tall Pines, LLC as part of a larger investigation. LaFHAC regularly conducts these types of investigations to ensure housing providers are not engaging in discriminatory practices. During this first test, Mr. Rizzuto provided different information to an African American tester than to a white tester regarding when a unit would be available for rent. During this initial testing, he also told a tester, “I don’t have any kids here. This is mostly adults. I don’t like kids.”
When LaFHAC performed additional tests, a white tester was informed of multiple available apartment units and invited to view the property, while a Black tester who called 15 minutes before the white tester’s tour was told that “there [was] nothing available until the end of March.” Additional tests two weeks later showed a similar pattern. In both the January and February tests, Rizzuto made discriminatory comments against families with children, including that he “tries to separate people with kids and without. I put people with kids in [neighboring units]….so they can irritate each other.”
To settle the lawsuit, Tall Pines, LLC and Mr. Rizzuto have agreed to pay $35,000 and to create and publish a non-discrimination policy, which will be included with all future rental applications and leases of all properties they own and manage. In addition, all current and future staff are required to take fair housing training and refrain from discriminating in violation of the Fair Housing Act and applicable state and local laws.
“Unfortunately, this kind of racial discrimination and discrimination against families with children are some of the most common fair housing violations we see across the state,” said Cashauna Hill, Executive Director of LaFHAC. “We encourage anyone who suspects they may have been discriminated against or who may have witnessed housing discrimination to report their experiences to the Fair Housing Action Center,” she continued.
The full complaint is available here.