On April 10, 2014, a Virginia landlord with property in Pelham, NC, was ordered to pay $36,000 for discriminating against prospective African American tenants. The landlord, John Sylvania Matthews, III, resides in Danville, VA, and rents property in both Virginia and North Carolina.
The case arose in September 2013, when an African American woman called him about a property that he had advertised for rent. She was told that the property had already been rented, although a white applicant who that same day called about the unit was told that it was still available.
Housing Opportunities Made Equal, a fair housing organization based in Richmond, VA, conducted fair housing testing and confirmed that the landlord was treating people differently based on race. A white tester was told in ready” and located in “a good neighborhood.” However, according to a press release issued by HOME, Mr. Matthews
discouraged the African-American tester from renting the same property. He then steered her to other properties that were not yet available as he was still cleaning them out because “a bunch of damn n****** were living in ’em.”
Both HOME and the individual who originally contacted Mr. Matthews filed lawsuits against him. In the case brought by HOME, Mr. Matthews was found to have violated the federal Fair Housing Act by refusing to negotiate with someone based on their race and by making statements indicating a preference or limitation based on race. The court ordered Mr. Matthews to pay damages of $25,000, as well as $11,000 attorney’s fees for his actions. The separate case brought by the prospective tenant remains pending.
Click here to read a HOME’s press release about the lawsuit.