An Orland Park property owner agreed to pay $35,000 in damages, among other penalties, after he was sued for refusing to rent a house to a black man.
Two lawsuits were filed against Terence Flanagan in 2009, both stemming from accusations that he refused to rent an Orland Park house to a black man named Kemal Majied. Majied and the South Suburban Housing Center, a Homewood-based non-profit that works to uphold fair housing practices, filed one suit. The U.S government filed a second suit, and both claimed Flanagan had violated the Fair Housing Act.
As part of the settlement, Flanagan admitted to comments he made to two white women, one sent from the SSHC and the other from the U.S. Department of Justice, that he prefers to not rent to black people, according to court documents reviewed by Patch. Flanagan also admits to declining to rent the house to Majied, originally saying the house was taken, even though over the phone he later told Majied’s wife, who is white, that it was still available.
Majied met with Flanagan on July 28, 2009, about a house at 14412 Highland Avenue listed as for rent in an area newspaper. Majied and his wife were told shortly after they arrived that the house was taken and that he thought another property he owned wouldn’t work for them, according to the documents. The following day, Majied’s wife spoke with Flanagan over the phone without identifying herself, and he said the house was still available, the documents read.
The couple contacted the SSHC the next day, and a white female staff member from the center later met with Flanagan about the house. The staff member reported that during the meeting Flanagan said he had no intention of renting to black people. He also asked if her husband was black and said he had problems when he “unknowingly rented the house previously to an interracial couple,” according to the documents. It was also recorded in the documents that Flanagan said he turned down renting to a black man who offered to pay the first full year of rent up front.
About a week after the Majieds first spoke with Flanagan, a white female DOJ staff member met him at the house about renting. Flanagan also asked this woman if her husband was black, again stated his preference to not rent to black people and said that he turned down a black man who offered a full year’s rent, according to the documents. He also offered to rent the house to her at lower than the advertised price because she wasn’t black, the documents read.
"This case involved some of the most dramatic evidence of discrimination we have seen," said John Petruszak, executive director of the South Suburban Housing Center. "Discriminating landowners tend to be more subtle. It was an eye opener for us even after doing these investigations as long as we have."
The settlement terms include $15,000 to be paid to the Majieds and the SSHC each. A $5,000 civil penalty is to be paid to the federal government. Flanagan also will only be able to rent property he owns through a third party who is approved by the government for the next five years. He cannot make any rental deals himself during that time.
“This kind of discrimination is illegal and has no place in the housing market anywhere in this country,” Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, said in a news release. “This lawsuit demonstrates the department’s resolve to pursue and eradicate such discrimination, whether practiced by housing providers large or small.”
A message left for Flanagan’s office was not returned Wednesday evening, and he was not available at his home.