A Virginia landlord is being sued after tenants in many of his buildings, majority of whom are Black and female, claim they’ve experienced “horrific” treatment which included repeatedly making threats to them, calling them racial slurs and failing to make important repairs when requested.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is at the helm of this suit, filed in Newport News Circuit Court, which is said to be the first case filed under a relatively new systemic discrimination provision in the state’s Fair Housing Law.
The new rules now gives the attorney general authority to handle systemic housing discrimination in the commonwealth.
The man being targeted is David Merryman. The 56-year-old, who is white, has been accused of referring to his tenants as “n-ggas” who should “go back to Africa.” One white woman claimed Merryman called her a “n-gger lover” and advised that she “pay your bills like other white people,” the Daily Beast reported.
The suit also lists other behaviors including threatening the “lives of a Black, female tenant and that tenant’s minor children, resulting in the tenant obtaining a protective order against him.” “He most definitely was a landlord from hell,” one person told the outlet.
Merryman owns over a dozen rental properties in southeastern Virginia worth an estimated $5 million. The property owner has also a history of arrest for threats and assault and has reportedly been cited numerous times by local city governments for code violations among other complaints.
One man, Joseph Robertson , who lives in one of Merryman’s properties in south Newport News, told 13News Now that Merryman threatened to spit on him. “He’s called me a n-gger a few times,” the resident said. “Different threats, different racial slurs, one thing after another you know. It’s always something with him.”
Elsewhere, he stated, “More people need to know how he really is and how he [treats] his tenants. He’s a little behind the times, I guess, need to catch up with the real world.”
Herring is now seeking $8 million in compensation for the tenants over Merryman’s alleged treatment of his renters and for “an alarming pattern of abusive, racist, sexist, and otherwise unlawful behavior.”
Merryman responded to the lawsuit, telling The Daily Beast that instead of using his resources to investigate him, the attorney general should investigate the government for allowing tenants to get rent moratoriums because of the pandemic.
“It shouldn’t take a guy who owns 90 rental houses to figure out, duh, if everybody would get back to work and if Congress would get people working, they could pay their rent and they wouldn’t be going belly-up,” he said.