The Fair Housing Center in the June 2016 lawsuit alleged that it received a complaint that a mother with two young children, ages 2 and 5 at the time, was refused an apartment in Kefallinos’ River Park Lofts property because she had kids. The mother recounted her interaction with the leasing agent in a deposition.
“She pretty much told me like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, it’s a no kids policy,’ and then she explained to me why they didn’t want (them) there was because of dogs walking around with no leashes and the simple fact that the walls are thin, and you can hear people having sex and everything of that nature, and a lot of the tenants didn’t really like to hear all the kids’ noise and being that the walls are so thin,” the mother said in a deposition. Her attorney, Stephen Thomas, could not be reached for comment.
After receiving the complaint, the center then “conducted a series of tests” the next two months “confirming the policy of exclusion of families with children,” the lawsuit says.
The leasing agent, an employee of Kefallinos’ Boydell Development Inc. real estate company, allegedly told one Fair Housing Center tester that his properties “don’t take any kids,” the complaint says. “There are no kids at all in our building. Not appropriate for kids,” the woman is quoted in the complaint as saying.
Kefallinos’ attorney argued that the potential renter “sustained no damages” and that he “could not legally rent out units at the time complained of in the plaintiff’s complaint because defendants did not have a certificate of occupancy.”
They also argued that the Kefallinos employee is originally from Poland and that English, her a second language, is an issue “which she still struggles with” and which “further complicates the interactions between (her) and the testers.”
An April 16, 2015, voicemail from the employee allegedly says: “I am not allowed â€” actually, basically every manager from Boydell, we are not allowed renting any spaces to people with kids and especially under six years old by 10 age.”
Kefallinos attorney Gonek said his client has complied with the consent order and removed the woman in question from her managerial position.
“She was concerned about a single mother wanting to rent a studio apartment on the first floor where a lot of the occupants had medical marijuana cards,” Gonek said. “She gave the applicant other locations that might suit her needs better.”
He said Kefallinos’ staff has also been sent to training with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to ensure that they comply with housing laws.
That was required under the Jan. 10 consent order. In addition, Kefallinos’ Detroit-based Boydell is required to develop and implement nondiscrimination standards and procedures, which would have to be approved by the Fair Housing Center.
The order also says that Boydell is to “arrange for the publication of” a notice to potential victims in the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News and Michigan Chronicle. The ad costs are paid out of the $75,000 Aggrieved Persons Fund, which limits victims to $2,500 in damages each.
The consent order is effective for three years until Jan. 10, 2022.