Government alleges racial discrimination at apartments

Published 8:55 pm Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Justice Department is suing the owner and two employees of Rolling Oaks Apartments for allegedly discriminating against black people when renting apartments.

The lawsuit claims employees Kenneth R. “Ken” Scott and Frankie L. Roberson told white individuals acting as renters that a major selling point of Rolling Oaks was the lack of black tenants.

The employees also said the apartments had adopted rental policies intended to discourage black people from applying to live there, the lawsuit alleges.

The allegations are based on evidence collected during the department’s Fair Housing Testing Program, where people pose as renters to gather information about possible discriminatory practices.

If true, the actions would violate the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, sex, family status, national origin and disability.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. Apartment owner Chandi Biswas is also named in the complaint.

“When housing providers tell renters that they have a preference for a particular race or color, they are blatantly practicing housing discrimination and creating an intolerable condition for all,” said Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general for civil rights.

Repeated efforts to reach apartment staff by telephone and at the complex were unsuccessful Wednesday. A telephone answering machine and a sign on Rolling Oaks’ leasing office door both said the apartments are closed on Wednesdays.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, civil penalties and a court order barring future discrimination.

Rolling Oaks Apartments is a 72-unit complex on Eighth Street near downtown Clanton.