The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has fined Brotman Enterprises, a Philadelphia-area real estate company, for racial discrimination.
Employees of Brotman Enterprises allegedly steered white testers posing as rental applicants to safer neighborhoods, while steering black testers to one of the company’s properties in a “high-crime, less desirable” neighborhood.
The case was brought to HUD’s attention by the National Fair Housing Alliance, which filed a complaint alleging that Brotman Enterprises was “unlawfully denying housing opportunities to African-American home seekers.”
The NFHA is a national fair housing organization that receives HUD funding to “combat housing discrimination.” The organization made headlines on Monday when its CEO, Shanna Smith, said that the NFHA is investigating real estate websites that include the racial and ethnic composition of home’s surrounding neighborhood.
After receiving the complaint from the NFHA, HUD investigated the claims and determined that Brotman violated the Fair Housing Act, which makes it unlawful to “discriminate in the terms, conditions, or privileges associated with the sale or rental of a dwelling on the basis of race, including steering potential renters or homebuyers to different neighborhoods.”
Under the terms of a conciliation agreement with HUD, Brotman will pay $25,000 to the NFHA in damages. All of the company’s leasing agents and managers will also be required to attend fair housing training and the company must establish a non-discrimination rental policy.
Despite agreeing to the fine and the related terms of the agreement, the agreement states that Brotman “denies having discriminated against Complainant (NHFA) and admits no liability with respect to any of the allegations or claims in the complaint.”
That statement notwithstanding, Joel Brotman, the company’s owner, signed the agreement on May 15.
“Testing remains one of our most effective tools for exposing unlawful housing discrimination,” said Bryan Greene, HUD's acting assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue to enforce the Fair Housing Act to ensure that no family has their housing options limited because of their race.”