RICHMOND, Va. -- The City of Richmond has settled a housing discrimination lawsuit over alleged civil rights violations of 33 current and former mobile home park residents.
The residents, majority of them are Latino, were represented pro bono by the Legal Aid Justice Center and the law firm of Crowell & Moring LLP. They alleged that an aggressive housing code enforcement campaign violated their civil rights.
Neighbors in Rudd's Trailer Park were among those who sued, saying city inspectors with armed escorts went into their homes without warning. They said they felt targeted, because the inspector condemned homes for not meeting unrealistic standards.
“This settlement is a positive outcome for our clients and for all mobile home park residents in the City of Richmond,” said Marie Diveley, Crowell & Moring senior counsel. “The City has agreed to take important steps that will not only benefit vulnerable mobile home park residents, but will also ensure that limited English speakers can access City services without unnecessary language barriers.”
According to the lawsuit, the City also refused to provide adequate interpretation and translation services for the limited English proficient residents, in violation of federal civil rights laws.
The city admitted no wrong-doing, but agreed to pay about $40,000 to help residents make repairs or relocate.
Under the terms of the settlement, the City of Richmond agreed to institute policies that will help minimize the displacement of mobile home residents in future enforcement activities and will better serve residents who are not fluent in English.
“This settlement is the culmination of a long process of negotiation to address serious concerns on both sides,” according to Phil Storey, the Legal Aid Justice Center’s lead attorney on the case. “We are pleased that the City and the residents were able to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.”
Under the terms of the settlement agreement the City will:
- Work with a non-profit partner organization to assist mobile home park residents in addressing maintenance code violations prior to park-wide inspections.
- Provide notices of code violations and appeal forms in Spanish to residents who are proficient in Spanish but not English.
- Institute a language-access plan pursuant to federal civil rights guidelines and train City employees on their obligations under the plan.
- Arrange for Fair Housing Act training for certain departments of City government.
With the agreement, the City also acknowledged that mobile homes play an important role in the affordable housing supply of Richmond.