Suits Filed Against Apartment Operators In Fla., Minn.
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The first housing discrimination lawsuits seeking monetary damages authorized by Congress under new provisions of the Fair Housing Act were filed Monday by the Justice Department.
The separate lawsuits were filed against apartment operators in Florida and Minnesota for compensatory monetary damages under provisions enacted last year by Congress in the Fair Housing Amendments Act, which took effect Sunday.
″Most discriminatory housing practices have been illegal for over 20 years; the new act makes them expensive as well,″ Attorney General Dick Thornburgh said in a statement after the lawsuits were filed.
″Our new authority to seek damages allows us to provide a complete remedy for victims of housing discrimination, and the civil penalty provision can constitute a signficant deterrent to such discrimination,″ Thornburgh said.
Before the amendments took effect, plaintiffs in housing discrimination suits filed by private attorneys could only obtain up to $1,000 in civil penalties.
And under the old law, the Justice Department lacked authority to seek any monetary award for a complainant.
The compensatory damages enacted by Congress are intended to repay plaintiffs not only for the loss of time and money but for humiliation and emotional suffering.
In addition, property owners can be fined $50,000 for the first finding of discrimination and up to $100,000 for a second violation.
The suit filed in federal court in Miami charged that Jay Howard Magid, and two companies he owns, Rent America, Inc. and Skyline Rental Systems, Inc., discriminate against blacks seeking apartments in complexes operated in Fort Lauderdale.
Hal Eubanks, a property manager, was also named as a defendant.
A similar complaint was filed in Minneapolis against John and Arnold Klinker, who operate two buildings containing 40 apartments.