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Lewis v Williamsburg Village Apartments

#W95-43 | Location: South Lyon | Court Level: Federal | Settlement: $32,500

Categories: Race, Rental
Tags: African American, Black, Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act

Sharon Lewis filed a race discrimination suit against Williamsburg Village Apartments in Lyon Township, Michigan. In April 1995 Lewis, a white woman, contacted FHC Cooperating Attorney Michael J. Steinberg about her housing discrimination claim. Steinberg referred the case to the Fair Housing Center of Washtenaw County for investigation. Lewis planned to share the apartment with Tyrone Tillison, her African-American boyfriend, and their five-year-old son Phillip.

According to the law suit, on the day Lewis moved in (Tillison was to join her ten days later), manager Elizabeth Bell asked Lewis what nationality her “husband” was. When Lewis asked why, Elizabeth Bell responded that Lewis’ son Phillip was “kind of dark.” Lewis told Bell that Phillip’s father was Black. Elizabeth Bell then told Lewis that Phillip’s father could not live at Williamsburg Village Apartments and that Bell also said that there were no black people in the area. Bell then told Lewis that only two people were allowed in a two-bedroom apartment.

In May of 1995 Lewis recieved a letter from owner Richard Perry threatening to evict Lewis unless Tyrone Tillison moved out. Testing conducted by the Fair Housing Center supported Lewis’ claim of discrimination based on race. White testers were told about available two-bedroom apartments while African-American testers were told that no two-bedroom units were open.

Steinberg filed suit on behalf of Lewis in U.S. District Court. The suit alleged violations of the Federal Fair Housing Act and Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. The case was assigned to Judge Denise Page Hood. Lewis and Tillison accepted a $32,500 settlement.

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