A couple in Long Island recently filed a lawsuit against the community organization that owns the land on which their house is built, alleging that the organization imposed restrictions on marketing their home for sale – restrictions which the couple says are designed to keep the community almost all-white.
The league, which owns a tract of land now occupied by about 45 families in the town of Yaphank, New York, has a dark past. The community organization is now known as the German American Settlement League.The league began as a spin-off from the German-American Bund, a pro-Nazi group that was active in the U.S. in the 1930s. The federal government seized the land at the end of World War II but the league eventually got it back.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege the league’s bylaws prohibited them from advertising their home to the general public or even putting up a “for sale” sign. Only members of the league and their friends were informed the house was for sale. The couple asked the league to amend its bylaws, but it refused to do so. The couple alleges that as a result, they got no acceptable offers for the house.
The federal Fair Housing Act was passed decades ago to prohibit housing discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex,disability and whether buyers or renters have children. The Act makes it illegal to refuse to sell or rent residential property to anyone based on these protected categories, or to impose different terms or conditions on selling or renting residential real estate.
Those who believe they have been the victims of housing discrimination may have the right to bring a lawsuit and recover damages. Those in the real estate business, as well as anyone renting or selling residential real estate, would be well-advised to be knowledgeable about the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.
Source: New York Times, “Nazi Past of Long Island Hamlet Persists in a Rule for Home Buyers,” Nicholas Casey, Oct. 19, 2015