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Beach company settles housing discrimination

VIRGINIA BEACH (AP) A Virginia Beach property management company has settled allegations that it discriminated against a Hispanic woman because she didn’t speak English fluently.

The woman alleged in a housing discrimination complaint that Virginia Realty Company of Tidewater Inc. refused to give her a rental application for an apartment.

Virginia Realty agreed to pay the woman $7,500 to settle the case. The company also will donate $25,000 each to Piedmont Housing Alliance, Hampton Roads Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Nueva Vida (New Life) Outreach International Church. The money will be used to support fair housing initiatives.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the settlement on Jan. 16.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the rental of housing on the basis of national origin. Denying housing because an applicant does not speak English well violates the Act, according to a statement by HUD official John Trasviña, in a statement announcing the settlement.

The case came to the agency’s attention when a Hispanic woman filed a complaint alleging the target property management company, which manages over 500 rental units throughout Virginia Beach and Norfolk, refused to provide her a rental application because she did not speak English well and refused the translation assistance of the bilingual person who accompanied the applicant.

HUD said it launched a Secretary-initiated investigation to determine whether the complaint arose from an isolated incident or whether it was evidence of systemic discrimination. The agency discovered the realty company had a written policy expressly requiring all prospective tenants to be able to communicate with management staff in English without help from others, and to complete rental applications only while they were present in the management office.

Virginia Realty entered into two agreements, one paying a sum of money to the individual complainant and one with the agency, calling for the realty company to donate $75,000 to identified area groups to support fair housing initiatives.

The company also adopted an explicit policy against discrimination, that it will distribute to current residents and prospective tenants, and adopt a plan to better serve residents and prospective tenants with limited English proficiency. The company is required to provide translation services and to require its employees to undergo fair housing training.

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