Crime & Justice

LA apartment owner to pay $2.7M in discrimination settlement

Los Angeles apartment owner Donald T. Sterling has agreed to pay $2.725 million to settle allegations that he discriminated against African-Americans, Hispanics, and families with children when renting apartments. The Justice Department says it's the largest monetary payment ever obtained by the department in the settlement of a case alleging housing discrimination in the renting of apartments.

The lawsuit, filed by the Justice Department in 2006, alleged that Donald T. Sterling, his wife, and the Sterling Family Trust engaged in discriminatory rental practices based on race, national origin, and having children under 18 at L.A. apartment buildings they own and manage under the name "Beverly Hills Properties." The allegations included discriminating against non-Korean tenants and prospective tenants at apartment buildings in Koreatown.

The Sterlings' employees prepared internal reports indentifying the race of tenants at Koreatown properties. The Sterlings also made statements to employees at Koreatown buildings indicating that African-Americans and Hispanics were not desirable tenants.

The Sterlings own and manage approximately 119 apartment buildings in L.A. County, with over 5,000 apartments. The settlement also resolves two related lawsuits filed by former tenants, including an African-American family and an interracial married couple with biracial children, who alleged that the Sterlings took actions against them based on their race.

The settlement includes a $100,000 penalty, as well as $2.625 million the defendants will have to pay into a fund that will be used to pay monetary damages to those harmed by the defendants' discriminatory practices. Any left over money will be used for fair housing education or enforcement in Los Angeles.

The Sterlings will also have to take steps to ensure non-discriminatory practices at their L.A. County rental properties under a proposed consent order.

"Housing is a basic human need, and yet decades after passage of the Fair Housing Act, far too many still encounter barriers like discrimination," said Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez.