The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has announced that it is charging a Chicago couple, their real estate agent, and a real estate broker with refusing to sell a home listed for $1.799 million to a black couple because of their race, in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The charge alleges that owners Daniel and Adrienne Sabbia and real estate agent Jeffrey Lowe stalled negotiations and took the property off the market after receiving a $1.7 million offer from radio personality and comedian George Willborn and his wife, businesswoman Peytyn Willborn.
The Willborns submitted the highest offer the sellers had received in the two years the property was on the market. Yet, when faced with the sales contract, the Sabbias refused to sign it. Real estate agent Jeffrey Lowe told HUD investigators that Daniel Sabbia expressed a preference not to sell his home to an African-American.
The charge also names the Lowe Group Chicago Inc. and real estate broker, Prudential Rubloff Properties.
“Racial fairness is important at all income levels. Civil rights enforcement must be the effective shield against housing discrimination that in this case wealth was not,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability. This includes the selling, brokering or appraising of a real estate property. HUD’s action is also on behalf of the prospective buyers’ real estate agent who was effectively denied a commission by the alleged discriminatory action of the sellers.
The HUD charge will be heard by an Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages to aggrieved persons for the damages caused them by the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose fines in order to vindicate the public interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages to aggrieved persons.
For more information, visit www.hud.gov.