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Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing & Opportunity Council v. Jezewak

United States District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, Eastern Division

March 18, 2015

METROPOLITAN ST. LOUIS EQUAL HOUSING & OPPORTUNITY COUNCIL, Plaintiff,
v.
NORMAN L. JEZEWAK, and SIGNATURE PROPERTY, L.L.C. Defendants,

OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

HENRY EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This matter is before the Court on Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, or Alternatively, Motion for More Definite Statement, [Doc. No. 33]. Plaintiff opposes the motion. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is denied.

Facts and Background[1]

Plaintiff’s original Complaint was dismissed as a result of the Court’s order granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff was given leave to file an Amended Complaint. Plaintiff filed its Amended Complaint alleging the following:

Plaintiff’s mission is to ensure equal opportunity for all persons in housing and places of public accommodation through education, counseling, investigation and enforcement. Plaintiff executes this mission by: conducting training presentations throughout the region on fair housing, landlord-tenant law, and mortgage assistance; counseling and assisting individual clients with discrimination complaints, eviction defenses, and mortgage issues; working with local communities, state and municipal governments, and other organizations to encourage equal opportunity and affirmatively further fair housing; investigating housing providers and other entities covered by the Fair Housing Act and similar laws to ensure their compliance; and taking other actions consistent with its mission of ending discrimination and places of public accommodation.

Testing is a tool used by fair housing agencies to measure the quality, quantity, and content of information and customer service given to potential renters and/or home buyers by housing providers based on protected class. A matched pair test is an investigation using testers to compare the treatment afforded by housing providers to different types of prospective renters. Testers are persons who, without the intent to rent an apartment or buy a house, pose as prospective buyers or renters of real estate for the purpose of gathering information. In matched pair tests, two similarly-situated testers – one of whom is a member of a protected class and the other of whom is not – test the same property. The information gathered by the tester is then assessed to determine whether there is any indication that a housing provider may be in violation of fair housing laws.

Plaintiff conducted a matched pair test for familial status discrimination at 5847 Sunshine Drive on June 6-8, 2011. Plaintiff’s testing coordinator determined that the results of the June 6-8, 2011 matched pair test indicated that Defendants may be discriminating on the basis of familial status, as well as race and/or color. Based on the results of this test, EHOC’s testing coordinator conducted a second matched pair test for familial status discrimination on September 20, 2011, and a separate matched pair test for race discrimination on July 7-12, 2011.

The two tests for familial status discrimination revealed evidence that Defendants engaged in discriminatory practices including, but not limited to, the following: a. Refusing to make one-bedroom units available for inspection by two-person households with children while indicating a willingness to make the same units available for inspection by two-person households without children; b. Informing testers who indicated that they had children that he would not rent to them because of the underwriting policy of the Defendants’ insurance provider; and c. Informing testers who indicated that they had children that each resident needed to have his or her own room because of the underwriting policy of the Defendants’ insurance provider.

The matched pair test for racial discrimination revealed evidence that Defendants engaged in discriminatory practices including, but not limited to, the following: questioning the African-American tester extensively about his credit score while not similarly questioning the white tester; questioning the African-American tester more extensively about his current neighborhood than he did the white tester; and stating that less-desirable kinds of people tend to live in the African-American tester’s current neighborhood.

Each act of discrimination conducted in the Metropolitan St. Louis area causes a setback to the good work accomplished by Plaintiff’s educational, counseling, and outreach efforts and the development of an integrated housing community. As a result, Plaintiff must launch further efforts to undo the damage that the discrimination has caused. These further efforts required are a substantial drain on Plaintiff’s resources and cause harm to Plaintiff.

Plaintiff alleges that as a result of the conduct of the Defendants, persons were injured in their person and property. Specifically, families with children and persons of minority races and color were not provided equal housing opportunity in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Further, Plaintiff is now forced to divert funds to counteract the discriminatory message and acts of Defendants and has had its purpose frustrated by Defendants’ discriminatory conduct.

Plaintiff claims that its mission and purpose have been frustrated by Defendants’ discriminatory practices. As a result of the time spent by Plaintiff conducting the initial and follow-up tests on Defendants property, Plaintiff’s time and resources were diverted from its fair housing counseling, training, outreach, and other activities and services.

Plaintiff claims that Defendants’ actions constitute housing discrimination in violation of 42 ...


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