Government sues owners of Ypsilanti Township apartment complex, alleging Fair Housing Act violations
The federal government has filed a lawsuit against the owners of an Ypsilanti Township apartment complex, alleging they discriminated against prospective tenants who had children.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is suing Gerald A. Brown and Shirley L. Brown, alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination, including based upon familial status.
According to the lawsuit, the Browns own a 13-unit complex on North Harris Road and turned away a pregnant woman who inquired in February 2009 about a one-bedroom apartment there. The woman subsequently filed a complaint with the Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan, which sent people out who pretended to be prospective tenants and inquired about renting at the complex.
The suit alleges that those "testers" found that Gerald Brown engaged in discriminatory practices against families with children.
The Browns couldn't be reached for comment.
According to the lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court in Detroit, the pregnant woman initially inquired about the apartment after seeing a newspaper advertisement.
She spoke with Gerald Brown on the telephone when he asked who the apartment was for, the lawsuit says. When she explained it was for her and the baby she was expecting, Brown allegedly told her she would need a 2-bedroom unit because a single bedroom would not be enough. The suit also claims he told her that a larger unit wouldn't be available for a long time.
In addition, the suit alleges that Brown said he couldn't rent to her because "she had a child on the way" and there is no play area for children.
Lee Higgins covers crime and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at (734) 623-2527 and email at firstname.lastname@example.org.