NEW ORLEANS—Today, the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center (LaFHAC) announced a settlement agreement that prohibits New Orleans landlord Jerry Kelly Jr. from having any contact with current, past, or future tenants for the next 10 years. Mr. Kelly, who LaFHAC sued in 2018 over allegations that he grabbed the buttocks of a woman during lease signing, entered a unit without notice while a tenant was showering, and exhibited a preference to rent to young women, will have to hire a professional property manager to handle business related to the properties.
The agreement ensures that Mr. Kelly will turn over management duties to a professional property manager, and will no longer have unfettered access to tenants renting units that Mr. Kelly owns. Tenants of his buildings will also receive written notice that Mr. Kelly will have no contact with them moving forward unless they expressly opt in, as well as notice of a new sexual harassment policy and formal complaint procedure.
LaFHAC began investigating Mr. Kelly after former tenants and agents made allegations against him, including that he harassed several of his female tenants through sexual propositions, unauthorized and unannounced entry into their apartments, requests for dates, and multiple late-night phone calls.
As part of its investigation, LaFHAC used mystery shoppers to test Mr. Kelly’s properties. One mystery shopper in her early 20s reported that during a conversation in his office, Mr. Kelly openly stared at her body and nibbled his lips as he looked at her legs. Mr. Kelly promptly and reliably returned the calls of female mystery shoppers and met with them in person about the advertised apartment units, but did not return any phone calls from male mystery shoppers. In an interview with The Advocate after the case was filed, Mr. Kelly stated that he “likes to keep [one of his properties] with just girls.”
In February of 2019, a federal judge denied Mr. Kelly’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, ruling that the facts alleged in the complaint, if proven, could constitute illegal sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.
“Our overarching goal in settling this case was eliminating harm, so we are pleased that Mr. Kelly will be barred from interacting with tenants moving forward,” said Cashauna Hill, executive director at LaFHAC. “We’re also incredibly grateful to the former tenants and witnesses who made this case possible, and we implore any person with knowledge of similar behavior to report their suspicions to the Fair Housing Action Center,” she continued.
The work that provided the basis for this release was supported, in part, by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this release. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.