HOPE Files Federal Lawsuit Against Coral Gables Building for Discrimination Against Families with Children

No talking on the cellphone, no babysitting allowed and no guests! Those are just some of the rules that have been imposed at a South Florida apartment building. Michael Mejias and his wife claim they got kicked out of their home because property manager Elina Hernandez found out they were having a child. Mejias and his wife, Dyonne, have filed a federal lawsuit against Hernandez and the owner of The Royal House Apartments.

The building is located at 4410 W. Flagler St. According to records, it’s owned by the Fanny Lichter Revocable Trust.

Mejias said he and his wife enjoyed living at Royal House until his wife started showing. Mejias said he was cornered by Hernandez. “You didn’t tell me your wife was pregnant?” Mejias said Hernandez said to him. “I told her, ‘I didn’t know I have to tell you.’ We felt uncomfortable,” Mejias said. Mejias said he was told his lease would not be renewed.

“The only reason why she wanted Mr. Mejias and his wife out was because of the fact that they now had a child,” attorney Matt Dietz, of the Disability Independence Group, said. Dietz said the rules are designed to discourage people with children from living at Royal House Apartments. According to the suit, no visitors are allowed on balconies, the pool area, common area or overnight. There is no talking on the cellphone in the halls or in the laundry room. And there is absolutely no babysitting allowed there.

“We were able to establish a pattern of discrimination,” Keenya Robertson, president and CEO of The Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence, said. H.O.P.E., which is a nonprofit that fights housing discrimination, sent people to Royal House undercover looking to rent apartments. Some of the “testers” had children, while others didn’t. “We had one tester who was offered a lower price for a two-bedroom unit than others,” Robertson said.

One of the testers talked to Local 10 News Investigator Jeff Weinsier. “If you wanted your granddaughter to come there and you babysat?” Weinsier asked. “No, I can’t. Not allowed,” the unidentified tester said. “If I am at the pool or in the hallway, I cannot use my cellphone — only texts,” she added. “What did she say if you want to have guests?” Weinsier asked. “No, no guests,” the tester said.

“Some of this is ridiculous, controlling, and then some of these things are illegal,” Robertson said. Robertson said rules like these are allowed in 55-and-older communities, which Royal House is not.

Hernandez refused to talk to Weinsier when he confronted her. She apparently told Mejias his lease wasn’t being renewed because they were planning to redo the apartment he was in. Mejias offered to move elsewhere while work was being done and move back, but said his request was denied by Hernandez.

Weinsier also approached several residents who currently live at Royal House to ask about Hernandez and the rules. All refused to talk. Two said they were scared to speak with Weinsier and another only confirmed that no children currently live there.

Mejias’ federal suit asks for unspecified damages.

~From WPLG Local10.com