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TMCNet:  Housing Rights Center's Discrimination Case against the Sterlings Makes News Ten Years Later

[May 02, 2014]

Housing Rights Center's Discrimination Case against the Sterlings Makes News Ten Years Later

LOS ANGELES --(Business Wire)--

Unlawful housing discrimination is nothing new, despite renewed focus on the issue after the Los Angeles Clippers' owner, Donald Sterling, came under fire when the media released a tape recording of him making racially-charged comments. On the recording, Donald Sterling is heard chastising his alleged girlfriend for associating and bringing "black people to his games." As our lawsuit filed in 2003 alleged, Donald Sterling had a penchant for excluding African Americans from all of his properties - only then it was his rental housing properties not necessarily his games.

In February 2003, Housing Rights Center (HRC) filed a federal lawsuit against Mr. Sterling and his wife, Rochelle Sterling, for violating state and federal fair housing laws by unlawfully discriminating against current tenants and applicants based on race. HRC's lawsuit alleged that Donald and Rochelle Sterling implemented practices that favored Koreans over African Americans and Latinos. Specifically, that the Sterlings wanted to rid their buildings of all African American and Latino tenants by engaging in a series of illegal conducts. The Serlings were alleged to have harassed African American and Latino tenants, attempted to evict African American and Latino tenants without cause, and withheld repairs for African American and Latino tenants.

According to the Sterlings' employees, Mr. Sterling disliked Latinos, telling employees that "Hispanics smoke, drink, and just hang around the building." On at least one occasion, Mr. Sterling told management staff that he believed that "black tenants smell and attract vermin." Management also stated that they were instructed to make only the African American tenants sign in when entering their buildings, among other outrageous race-motivated actions.

HRC, along with private pro bono attorneys, filed a federal action against the Sterlings for injunctive relief to stop the discrimination and compensatory damages for the African American and Latino families that were part of the suit. The court prohibited the Sterlings from asking about the national origin of their tenants and applicants, and from changing the name of their properties to names that used the word "Korean" which would have had the effect of discouraging non-Koreans from applying.

As explained by Chancela Al-Mansour, HRC's Executive Director, "Racial discrimination in housing is alive and well in our country. What is more disheartening, however, is that while there is national outrage against Donald Sterling based on his comments against an NBA legend due to his race there was no similar outrage when African-American and Latino tenants complained that the Sterlings targeted and tried to evict them from their homes for no other reason but their race."

Individuals who believe they are victims of housing discrimination or who have questions about the fair housing laws may contact HRC for information at 1-800-477-5977 (voice), 213-201-0867 (TTY) or visit

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