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Black Renters Face Housing Hurdles

THE federal government has sued the owners and rental managers of 13 Florida apartment complexes, using evidence gathered by a sting that turned up a pattern of discrimination against blacks posing as renters.

The Justice Department filed lawsuits after sending out black and white "testers" to see how landlords would respond to their inquiries to rent the apartments.

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The lawsuits claim blacks were informed that no apartments were available, while whites were told units were ready or soon would be. In some instances, the blacks were quoted higher prices or told no apartments were available to inspect, though whites were shown apartments, federal officials say.

"In the 1990s, discrimination in housing is not going to be signified by words or signs, saying 'African-Americans need not apply,"' US Attorney Kendall Coffey said at the June 12 news conference announcing the lawsuits.

Several owners also were accused of refusing to rent to families with children.

James Rosemurgy, who owns six of the 11 Boca Raton complexes and manages a seventh, says he does not discriminate. "We have a much higher ratio of minorities [as tenants] than the community at large."

The Justice Department began investigating in South Florida after complaints from people seeking places to live after Hurricane Andrew hit in August 1992.

The 13 complexes were among 50 the Justice Department tested for discriminatory practices.

The government's nationwide testing program has led to 26 lawsuits in Florida, Ohio, Michigan, California, South Dakota, Indiana, and Missouri.

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