Apartment Owners, Employees Accused of Racial Harassment and Retaliation

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it is charging two Sioux Falls, South Dakota apartment owners, and their employees, with violating the Fair Housing Act by harassing and making discriminatory statements to an African-American family residing at Lakeport Village Apartments. In addition, HUD is accusing the owners and their employees of intimidating white tenants who came to the family’s defense.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords and their employees from making statements that indicate a racial preference or bias and bans the denial of housing and race-based harassment and retaliation against tenants.

According to HUD’s charges, Scott and Mike Terveen, managers of TK Properties, LLC, interfered with the African-American family’s ability to enjoy their home. In addition, the charge accuses their employees of repeatedly using vile racial epithets, including the N-word, in the presence of a member of the family. The employees allegedly tried to isolate the African-American family from their neighbors by soliciting false statements, refused to make timely repairs, and threatened eviction.

When two white neighbors supported the family, they were subjected to repeated harassment and retaliation, including threats of violence and eviction. One of the employees allegedly told one tenant who defended the African-American family, "You better watch out or I’ll beat the s… out of you."

"Every family, regardless of their race, has a right to live without fear from their landlords and their employees," said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "To add insult to injury, threatening to physically harm someone for standing up for another family’s fair housing rights is also against the law and HUD won’t tolerate it."

HUD charges will be heard by an Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charges elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an Administrative Law Judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he or she may award damages to the complainants for losses as a result of the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, and award payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose civil penalties in order to vindicate the public interest. If the case is heard in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages to the complainants.

FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate over 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1 (800) 669-9777 (voice), (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Additional information is available at portal.hud.gov/fairhousing.

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