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Jones v. Runaway Bay Apartments M/A Mgmt Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

December 11, 2017

ROBERT LEE JONES, JR, Plaintiff
v.
RUNAWAY BAY APARTMENTS M/A MGMT. CORP., Defendant

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Robert L. Miller, Jr. Judge

         Robert Jones filed an amended complaint against Runaway Bay M/A Mgmt Corp. alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq. Mr. Jones claims that Runaway Bay discriminatorily terminated his lease, restricted him from accessing a clubhouse, didn't conduct service and repairs in his apartment, and retaliated against him for engaging in protected activities. Runaway Bay's motion to dismiss Mr. Jones's amended complaint is before the court. [Doc. No. 113]. For the following reasons, the court grants the motion in part and denies it in part.

         I. Standard of Review

         When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, and draws all inferences in the nonmoving party's favor. Reynolds v. CB Sports Bar, Inc., 623 F.3d 1143, 1146 (7th Cir. 2010). But Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A claim is plausible if “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Twombly and Iqbal “require the plaintiff to ‘provid[e] some specific facts' to support the legal claims asserted in the compliant.” McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 616 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Brooks, 578 F.3d at 581)). The plaintiff “must give enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together.” Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010).

         II. Discussion

         Mr. Jones filed his complaint without an attorney, so the court “construe[s] it liberally, holding it to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Perez v. Fenoglio, 792 F.3d 768, 776 (7th Cir. 2015). The court construes Mr. Jones's complaint as attempting to state Fair Housing Act claims under § 3604(a) for discriminatory eviction, § 3604(b) for discriminatory provision of services or facilities, and § 3617 for retaliation. Because of the straightforward nature of Fair Housing Act claims like those alleged by Mr. Jones, the Twombly/Iqbal standard requires nothing more from a complaint than “factual allegations identifying (1) who discriminated against [the plaintiff]; (2) the type of discrimination that occurred; and (3) when the discrimination took place.” McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 617 (7th Cir. 2011).

         Runaway Bay argues that Mr. Jones's complaint should be dismissed because the allegations don't meet the Twombly/Iqbal standard. It contends that the complaint doesn't state a Fair Housing Act claim and only contains labels and conclusions alleging discrimination without any facts that plausibly show that the defendant violated the Fair Housing Act. With respect to some of Mr. Jones's claims, the court agrees; with respect to others, the court disagrees.

         A. Section 3604(a)

         Section 3604(a) of the Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to “refuse to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer, or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a). The court of appeals has construed the clause in 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a), “otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling, ” broadly, holding that the clause extends to the point of eviction, including constructive eviction. Bloch v. Frischholz, 587 F.3d 771, 776 (7th Cir. 2009) (arguing that to do otherwise would allow a landlord “to rent to an African-American but then, the day after he moves in, [to] change all the locks and put up signs that said, ‘No blacks allowed.' That clearly could not be what Congress had in mind when it sought to create ‘truly integrated and balanced living patterns.'”).

         Mr. Jones, an African-American, alleges racial discrimination by Runaway Bay caused his eviction or constructive eviction. For example, he alleges Runaway Bay racially discriminated against him and his family by restricting access to maintenance and clubhouse services, including through force, exposing the family to racial segregation, and “openly showing differences between white residents” and Mr. Jones. [Doc. No. 116 at ¶ 13]. He claims these actions made him “vulnerable to violence [and] mistreatment, ” caused him fear and “intentionally forc[ed] [Mr. Jones] to move to avoid further racism.” Id. He further alleges that Runaway Bay “terminated [his] lease unlawfully, without legitimate grounds based off of discrimination giving whites preferential treatment” and due to “race . . . discrimination by racist stereotypes, ” false accusations, and efforts to enforce “degrading racially segregating standards.” Id. at ¶ 2, 5, 7. These allegations of constructive eviction due to racial discrimination and a racially discriminatory eviction are sufficient to state a claim under § 3604(a).

         B. Section 3604(b)

         Section 3604(b) of the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination “against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b). Mr. Jones can state a § 3604(b) claim by alleging that Runaway Bay “engage[d] in invidious discrimination when failing to provide maintenance services or when limiting the use of [its] . . . facilities.” Mehta v. Beaconridge Improvement Ass'n, 432 Fed.Appx. 614, 617 (7th Cir. 2011).

         The amended complaint alleges that Runaway Bay “engaged in racial profiling, racial segregation[, ] and race discrimination, ” by “not conducting service or requested major repairs.” [Doc. No. 116 at ¶ 2-3]. Mr. Jones claims that when Runaway Bay maintenance workers entered his apartment to service his refrigerator and furnace, the workers allegedly refused to remove dirty gloves before working inside the refrigerator. An argument ensued and Mr. Jones claims that the workers exhibited “threatening white supremacy behaviors, ” made “racist distinctions between races openly in [Mr. Jones's] home, ” and left without making the ...


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