The National Fair Housing Alliance is filing a federal complaint against owners of three Charleston-area apartment communities for allegations of discriminating against prospective tenants who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The complaints to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are being filed against owners of Pine Crest Apartments in North Charleston, and Berkshire at Ashley River and Parsonage Point Apartments, both in West Ashley, officials announced Thursday.
The complaints are the result of a nationwide undercover investigation of apartment communities in several U.S. cities between March and October.
The organization's investigation documented how housing providers treat deaf and hard of hearing rental applicants compared with hearing applicants.
Thursday's hour-long telephone news conference was followed by the fair housing group releasing a 30-page complaint of violations of the Fair Housing Act.
The complaint outlined repeated hangups and contradicting information when investigators - who used a relay service to speak - called numerous apartment properties in several cities, including Savannah, Atlanta and Austin, Texas.
"The findings of NFHA's deaf and hard of hearing investigation are a major cause for concern," said Shanna L. Smith, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. "Seniors, young people and veterans make up the majority of people with hearing loss in the United States. The fact that some apartment owners refuse to even consider renting to deaf persons is appalling and it is illegal."
Officials pointed out a few apartment communities during Thursday's news conference, including Pine Crest Apartments, alleging that the leasing agent hung up "numerous times" when the deaf investigator called.
"The rental agent repeatedly hung up on the deaf tester after the tester introduced herself as deaf," according to the statement. "The [non-deaf] tester called soon thereafter and the agent answered the call and provided her with information about apartments."
The North Charleston community is owned by Framingham, Mass.-based VTT Management. Officials at the headquarters did not return a call requesting comment.
The alliance's complaint alleged that leasing agents at Berkshire at Ashley River and Parsonage Point Apartments treated the deaf and non-deaf investigators differently when they phoned in as part of the group's investigation.
Berkshire at Ashley River is owned by Boston-based Berkshire Property Advisors. Parsonage Point is managed by Alliance Management, Inc., which is based in Greensboro, N.C. Officials at both companies did not return calls seeking comment.
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 or twitter.com/tyrichardsonPC.