Edmonds family awarded $35,000 in discrimination case

Apartment manager refused them because they had a child
By Brian Soergel | Sep 06, 2017
Photo by: Brian Soergel The Sytsma family of Edmonds is, from left, Ashley, Eve, Oliver and Ryan.

The U.S. Department of Justice has reached a settlement with the owners and manager of three Edmonds apartment buildings to resolve a lawsuit filed earlier this year alleging that those landlords refused to rent their apartments to families with children, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Ashley and Ryan Sytsma of Edmonds were awarded $35,000 in damages.

In March 2014, the Sytsmas decided to move to Edmonds from Seattle to reduce Ashley’s commute time to her job at Rick Steves’ Europe, and because their son had recently been born.

They were taken aback when apartment manager, the defendant Debbie A. Appleby, told them the three apartments she managed were for adults only. The Sytsmas took action, sensing they were being unfairly discriminated against.

They filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which conducted an investigation, issued a charge of discrimination against the defendants and referred the case to the Justice Department.

The Justice Department on March 3 filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington alleging that Appleby refused to rent apartments to families with children, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

“The Fair Housing Act prohibits apartment owners and managers from denying housing to families because they have children,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John M. Gore of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in a statement Wednesday, Sept. 6. “We will continue to vigorously enforce the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition of discrimination against families with children.”

The three apartment buildings that are the subject of the settlement are located at 201 Fifth Ave. N., 621 Fifth Ave. S. and 401 Pine St. They are owned and managed by Appleby and Apple One, LLC; Apple Two, LLC; and Apple Three, LLC, of Stanwood.

In addition to the $35,000 awarded to the Sytsmas, under the settlement the defendants will pay $35,000 that will be used to compensate other families harmed by defendants’ practices; and $25,000 as a civil penalty to the United States.

Appleby and the group must also adopt nondiscriminatory policies and practices that ensure compliance with Fair Housing Act and submit to record keeping and monitoring requirements for the three-year period of the settlement agreement.

“Equal access to housing is essential for all Americans, including families with young children,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes of the Western District of Washington. “Particularly in our tight housing market, landlords must follow the law and make units available without discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or familial status.”

Anyone who believes they were discriminated against by the defendants because they have children should contact the Civil Rights Division at 800-896-7743, option 96, email the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov or contact HUD at 800-669-9777 or through its website at www.hud.gov.

“Since we started working with the U.S. Department of Justice on this case, many Edmonds parents have told me they didn't know families are protected against housing discrimination,” Ashley Sytsma said Wednessday.

“I hope this case will motivate families to educate themselves on their housing rights. I encourage all parents searching for housing to go to the DOJ’s website to learn their rights and how to stand up for them.”

The Sytsmas eventually found a place to rent in Edmonds, and now live in a house they own in the Seaview neighborhood. They have two children, Oliver and his toddler sister Eve.

 

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