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Alleged housing bias suit transferred

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//September 11, 2023

Alleged housing bias suit transferred

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//September 11, 2023

Where a homeowners’ association and property manager were sued for alleged housing discrimination, but the properties at issue, a majority of the parties and a majority of the witnesses were located in the Western District of Virginia, the suit was transferred to that court.


According to the operative complaint, plaintiffs purchased three properties in the Thomas Jefferson Crossings subdivision in Forest, Virginia. Defendant Thomas Jefferson Crossings Homeowners Association Inc., or TJCHOA, is the homeowners’ association for the three properties. Since April 2019, defendant Priority One Properties LLC has served as the property management company for plaintiffs’ properties.

Plaintiffs allege that defendants harassed them based on their religion, race, color and national origin. They allege that defendants attempted to stall or prevent the sale of the properties. Plaintiffs allege that, after they filed a complaint with Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia Inc., or HOME, its investigation revealed housing discrimination based on familial status. Defendants have filed motions to dismiss or, in the alternative, transfer.


Once a district court determines that the original action could have been brought in the transferee court, transferor courts within the Fourth Circuit must conduct a balancing test to determine whether the transfer is permissible under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). This balancing test weighs four factors: (1) plaintiffs’ choice of forum; (2) witness convenience and access to sources of evidence; (3) convenience of the parties and (4) the interest of justice.

In the present case, there is no dispute as to whether the Western District of Virginia, or WDVA, can exercise jurisdiction or is a proper venue in this lawsuit. Therefore, this court must now weigh the four balancing factors to determine if transfer is appropriate.

HOME is based and maintains its principal place of business in Richmond, Virginia, within the Eastern District of Virginia. However, the remaining four plaintiffs reside outside of the Eastern District of Virginia. Plaintiffs contend that a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to this claim occurred in the EDVA, based on HOME’s approximately 95 hours spent investigating defendants’ conduct. Plaintiffs thus argue that HOME incurred damages and harm within Richmond due to its efforts in this case.

However, plaintiffs overlook what they call the focal point of this case: defendants alleged discriminatory actions. Plaintiffs allege defendants’ discriminatory conduct occurred over six years, from 2017 -22, in Forest, Virginia, which is located within the WDVA.

Regarding the second factor, plaintiffs assert that most of their witnesses and evidence are located here in Richmond. However, plaintiffs do not provide any further details regarding their witnesses or evidence. Conversely, defendants are located in the WDVA. Defendants further described that their witnesses, many of whom are elderly, and evidence in this case are located in the WDVA, and remaining in this court would require defendants to transport all of their witnesses and evidence. Moreover, plaintiffs’ properties at issue in this case are located within the WDVA.

Third, the court must consider whether the transferee venue is more convenient for the parties to the action. While this court may be the most convenient for HOME, the remaining plaintiffs reside outside of this court. Additionally, the WDVA is more convenient for defendants as both they and their witnesses and evidence are located there.

Defendants argue that because the parallel state court proceeding between TJCHOA and two of the plaintiffs has been removed to the WDVA and remains ongoing, these parties will not be inconvenienced. The court agrees that transferring the case would convenience the parties, witnesses and courts involved. Further, the ongoing state court matter involves the same properties at issue in this case, and if not transferred, would cause these parties to litigate over the same properties in two separate forums.

The interests of justice calculation includes the interest of having local controversies decided at home, and in this case the controversy occurred entirely at the Thomas Jefferson Crossing subdivision in the WDVA. While HOME’s work in this case may have occurred at least in part in this court, all of defendants’ alleged conduct giving rise to this claim took place in the WDVA. Transfer will also result in the WDVA deciding cases relating to the same properties which promotes judicial economy and assists in avoiding inconsistent judgments.

Defendants’ motions to transfer granted.

Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia Inc. v. Thomas Jefferson Crossings Homeowners’ Association Inc., Case No. 3:23-cv-162, Aug. 22, 2023. EDVA at Richmond (Hudson). VLW 023-3-501. 9 pp.

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