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CR (202) 616-2765 TDD (202) 514-1888

WISCONSIN RENTAL COMPANY TO PAY LARGEST HOUSING DISCRIMINATION AWARD IN THE STATE UNDER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SETTLEMENT WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A Wisconsin-based rental company that refused to offer apartments to immigrants from Southeast Asia, African Americans and families with children on the same grounds as whites will pay $218,000 under an agreement reached today with the U.S. Justice Department. The housing discrimination settlement is believed to be the largest in the state of Wisconsin. The settlement, filed in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee, resolves a suit filed by the Justice Department in May of 1992 alleging that Security Management Company, Inc. violated the federal Fair Housing Act. The suit asserted that the company, which operates over 3500 rental units throughout Wisconsin, turned away persons of Hmong origin who have immigrated over the past ten years from various parts of Southeast Asia to this country, as well as African Americans. Wisconsin is one of several states with large Hmong populations. Under the settlement, the company will pay $153,000 in damages to the victims of discrimination, $10,000 each to two Lao/Hmong community associations and $45,000 in civil penalties to the U.S. treasury. It also will institute a fair housing training program, conduct tests of its own rental managers for possible fair housing violations, and report to the Justice Department for three years on its compliance record. "To discriminate against a person because they are a recent immigrant to this country or because they are a minority is to deny that person their rightful share of the American Dream," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Deval L. Patrick. "Today's settlement sends a clear message to housing providers that we will not tolerate the trampling of individuals' rights." The lawsuit stemmed from evidence gathered by two private Wisconsin fair housing councils, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council and the Fair Housing Council of the Fox Valley, which conducted random tests at complexes operated by the company. Under the tests, trained pairs of "testers" posing as prospective tenants inquired about available rental units at complexes in Appleton, Oshkosh, and the Milwaukee area. While white testers were generally told about the availability of apartments, Hmong and black testers were told that no apartments were available, were shown fewer apartments, or were otherwise discouraged from seeking housing. The suit also charged that the company discriminated against families with children after the testers discovered that the families were discouraged from living on certain floors or buildings or discouraged from renting at some complexes. Since 1989, federal law has prohibited discrimination against families with children.

The Justice Department is currently conducting similar tests in over a dozen cities across the country to detect possible housing discrimination. To date, the tests have produced 19 federal lawsuits in five states, resulting in settlements totalling close to $1.5 million. Individuals who believe they may have been the victims of housing discrimination anywhere in the United States should call either the Housing Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Department at 202-514-4713 or the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Fair Housing Hotline at 1-800-669-9777. # # # 94-670