A New Jersey landlord is facing charges after refusing to rent a unit to an African-American woman, then sending her a slew of racist, profanity-laced text messages.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has charged John Graham with discrimination for declining to rent to the woman solely because she is Black, according to NJ.com. The woman filed a complaint with the department last year alleging that race was a factor in her and her son being denied the opportunity to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Paramus that Graham advertised on Craigslist.
“No one looking for housing should be rejected because of race, much less be subjected to the indignity of racial slurs,” said HUD’s general counsel, J. Paul Compton. “This charge sends a clear message that HUD will protect the housing rights of all persons to the fullest extent of the law.”
Graham’s shocking texts reportedly referred to his property as a “n—-r free zone” and made references to “white power,” according to the department’s charge.
HUD officials said the incident unfolded in February 2017 when the woman, who remains unidentified, reached out to Graham about the listing via phone. When she informed him that she would not be by to see the apartment for another two days, Graham reportedly hung up on her.
When she tried texting him a few days later, Graham allegedly replied with racist comments that included, “I’ll have my slave clean it for me. … With her slave tone.” The landlord also made mention of the Ku Klux Klan, officials said.
Charging documents show that Graham then entered a lease with the current renters on Feb. 15, nearly two weeks after the woman inquired about the unit. Documents show the renters were later approved to move into the apartment as of April 1, 2017.
The agency accused Graham of violating the Fair Housing Act on several counts, including refusing to negotiate the rental of a dwelling based on a person’s race, the North Jersey Record reported. The act also prohibits coercion, intimidation and threats as a means of interfering “with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of any right granted by the act.”
HUD officials say the woman has suffered damages, including emotional distress, as a result of the incident.
“Fifty years after our nation passed a law prohibiting discrimination in housing, some individuals are still being denied a place to live because of the color of their skin,” said Anna Maria Farias, HUD’s assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Today’s action reflects HUD’s commitment to protecting the rights of home seekers, no matter their race, and taking action against housing providers that break the law.”
The department’s charge will be heard by an administrative law judge.