Landlord sent ‘white power, KKK’ texts, wouldn’t rent to black woman, feds allege

Federal officials accused a Paramus landlord of refusing to rent to a woman because she is African American and sending her a slew of racial slurs.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development this month said John Graham refused to rent an apartment to the woman because of her race and launching a stream of text messages with racial slurs at her when she questioned him about it. 

“No one looking for housing should be rejected because of race, much less be subjected to the indignity of racial slurs,” said J. Paul Compton, HUD’s General Counsel. “This charge sends a clear message that HUD will protect the housing rights of all persons to the fullest extent of the law.”

Officials did not disclose the woman’s name.

The case came to HUD’s attention when a woman filed a complaint alleging she and her young son were denied the opportunity to rent a two-bedroom apartment that was advertised on Craigslist because they are African American. HUD’s charge alleged the owner informed the woman she did not “make the cut” and used racial slurs in text messages to her.

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The incident occurred in February 2017 shortly after the woman responded to a listing for the apartment and placed a phone call to the owner, according to officials. When she told him she couldn’t come to view it for two days the man hung up.

When the woman sent the man a text message two days later, he responded with text messages full of profane, racist comments, officials said.

Graham’s texts called his property a “[N-word] free zone” and then he wrote “white power,” according to the charge.

Graham also made a reference to a slave and sent “KKK,” according to the charge.

Attempts to reach Graham for comment Saturday were not successful.

“Fifty years after our nation passed a law prohibiting discrimination in housing, some individuals are still being denied a place to live because of the color of their skin,” said Anna Maria Farias, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Today’s action reflects HUD’s commitment to protecting the rights of home seekers, no matter their race, and taking action against housing providers that break the law.”

The charging document said the woman suffered actual damages, including  emotional distress.

HUD’s charge will be heard by a administrative law judge unless the property owner or the woman want to have the case heard in federal court, where punitive damages could also be awarded.

Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on FacebookHave a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips

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