A New Orleans landlord accused last year of renting apartments only to “young, skinny white girls” and asking his tenants for dates says the lawsuit against him should be thrown out because its claims can’t be proved.
Jerry Kelly Jr., 53, also said the organization that made the claims, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, actually has no grounds to sue him at all.
Kelly, who manages 100 properties with 200 tenants in the New Orleans area, asked U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance to dismiss the suit in September and again this month. Vance will decide later whether the case will proceed.
Although the housing group said Kelly promptly returned calls from prospective female tenants but not from males, Kelly's attorney said last year that Kelly may have been slow to respond to men for reasons that had nothing to do with their gender.
Kelly told The Advocate in August that he "like(s) to keep it with just girls" at one apartment building, a statement the fair housing center has used against him in court. But his attorney insisted last week that the statement doesn't mean Kelly discriminates.
The housing center "has no standing to proceed with the prosecution of its claim and fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted," attorney Peter Koeppel wrote. Moreover, "the scandalous allegations were filed solely to confuse the issues, emotionally sway the trier of fact, and embarrass Mr. Kelly."
The head of the advocacy group said that it "remains confident" in its case.
A New Orleans landlord was accused of sexually harassing female tenants and barring prospective male and black tenants from his properties in …
That case was filed last year on behalf of former and current tenants who complained to the fair housing center about Kelly's behavior. The center was also contacted by a former real estate agent of Kelly's who said Kelly rents units only to "young, skinny white girls."
She said she personally witnessed him turn away more qualified men in order to rent to women and that he harassed women after they moved into his apartments, according to the suit.
A former tenant also told the advocacy group that Kelly said he would reduce her rent if she set him up on a date; another said Kelly told her he wouldn't have rented to her had he known she was married.
The housing center then hired male and female "testers" to attempt to rent Kelly's apartments at 4233 Fontainebleau Drive and 7927 Birch St.
When women called, Kelly immediately set up times for them to tour the two properties. But Kelly ignored calls from men or refused to show men his apartments, which the suit says was a violation of federal and state laws that ban housing discrimination.
Koeppel said the housing center didn't offer enough proof to suggest that Kelly refused to negotiate with a tester because of gender. Kelly may not have responded to a male caller's inquiry because he was holding an apartment for another prospective tenant, or because he became busy and forgot, the attorney said.
He said the advocacy group also hasn't proved that it has standing to sue Kelly, and he asked Vance to strike the former real estate agent's statements, former tenants' statements and other evidence from the court record.
Housing Center Executive Director Cashuana Hill said the center is confident of its case and remains "dedicated to supporting victims of discrimination and sexual harassment in housing."