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Housing Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against Livingston County Real Estate Firms

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Housing Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against Livingston County Real Estate Firms

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Interracial married couple of 30 years, Verdell and Julie Franklin recently filed a housing discrimination lawsuit against Livingstone County real estate agents and the firms they worked for.

After making an initial offer on their dream lake house situated in Michigan near friends, a realtor allegedly engaged in discriminatory behavior in violation of the Fair Housing Act by intentionally dissuading them from finalizing the offer. The same offer was accepted weeks later from a single white individual.

The couple alleges that upon meeting the home’s realtor in person, the realtor displayed no interest in them as potential buyers.

The couple describes their initial meeting over the phone as normal and friendly, a marked difference from the apparent apathy they were greeted with when the realtor met them in person at the home. The lawsuit claims the Franklins were all but ignored by the realtor during and after the tour, were not asked basic questions regarding their income or qualifications, and were intentionally influenced out of making an offer.

The Franklins reportedly prepared an offer of $300,000 but were informed by the realtor that anything less than the asking price of $350,000 would not be considered and that the house would continue to be shown. More conditions soon followed, including that the price had to be paid fully in cash and that the home would have to be purchased as-is without an inspection of the property. In light of these amendments, the Franklins withdrew their offer.

Weeks later the property sold for $300,000 with a mortgage to a white customer.

The Franklins had already suspected discrimination might be at play, and they had discussed their poor experience with their friends who lived nearby. After news of the final sale to a white customer for the same conditions they had offered came out, the couple filed complaints with the Livingston County Realtors Association and Fair Housing Authority. These organizations suggested the Franklins consider filing a lawsuit to seek accountability for these alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against people seeking housing.

The Fair Housing Act included in the Civil Rights Act of 1968 makes housing discrimination unlawful for any of the following reasons:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Familial Status
  • Disability

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, “The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities.” This includes refusing to sell to or entertain offers for a couple such as the Franklins for reasons such as race, color, or national origin.

The couple is seeking damages for emotional distress and humiliation, loss of opportunity, actual and punitive damages, and injunctive relief in the form of “imposing conditions for remediation, such as training, upon Defendants...”. The Franklins are also requesting that the two realtors directly involved lose their real estate licenses in light of the allegedly intentional and gross discrimination which occurred in their attempted home-buying experience.

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