Skip to comments.'Whites Only' Deed Sparks Lawsuit
Posted on 04/22/2005 10:54:48 PM PDT by freepatriot32
The modest brick house, with its yard full of wilting tulips and rusted old cars, isn't a candidate for the pages of Better Homes and Gardens.
But on a spring day in 2002, it was just what Nealie Pitts had in mind. She approached the owner, Rufus T. Matthews, and asked the price.
According to court documents, Matthews said the house was selling for $83,000 - but that a deed restriction meant only whites were eligible to buy it.
"I was hurt and angry, like he had slapped me in the face," Pitts, who is black, said in an e-mail.
Nearly three years later, the Virginia Office of the Attorney General said it will soon take Matthews to court for the alleged fair housing law violation.
It's a bittersweet victory for fair housing proponents, who wonder how many other people are turned away by racially restrictive deed covenants.
"We very rarely encounter anybody who believes they can be enforced," said Connie Chamberlin, president of Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME). "We are aware they're certainly out there."
In milder forms, covenants can be used to control things like the color homeowners can paint their houses.
But in the Jim Crow South, they were often used to keep neighborhoods white. Racially restrictive covenants were ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in 1948.
"Many people don't even know they're in their deeds," Chamberlin said, adding would-be homebuyers can ask to have the racist language removed. "That can't be used as a reason to stop a sale."
According to court documents, Matthews told Pitts his house in suburban Richmond was "not for colored. We decided we are going to keep this area right here all white."
The next day she contacted HOME, which sent out a black test buyer.
"Precisely the same thing happened," Chamberlin said. "We have it on tape."
On Thursday, Matthews told The Associated Press that he would sell his home only to a white buyer. But he denied the house was for sale, saying a sale sign he had was for items in his yard. "The house has never been for sale," he said.
Matthews is accused of violating the Virginia Fair Housing Law. The same code says officials can attempt an out-of-court settlement in cases where the law has been violated.
At an April 13 meeting, the Virginia Fair Housing Board rejected a settlement offer. Board Chairman David Rubinstein declined to detail why it refused the proposal from the attorney general's office.
But Thomas Wolf, an attorney representing Pitts, said the offer would have required Matthews take two hours of class on fair housing law, at taxpayer expense.
"That is not a serious settlement proposal given the facts of the case," Wolf said. "Were they planning to pass out Happy Meals with little Confederate flags?"
Emily Lucier, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Judith Williams Jagdmann, could not explain how the proposal was formulated, but said settlement is not unheard of in discrimination cases.
Pitts is seeking $100,000 in damages in a separate case against Matthews. Lucier said because Pitts has gotten her own lawyer, the office cannot legally seek monetary damages in the civil matter.
Instead, she said, the office will continue pressing for injunctive relief and education. A court date has not been set
The correct way to state it is the covenants were ruled 'unenforceable' by a court.
What kind of idiot would try to enforce a racial covenant in this day and age?
Senator Robert Byrd?
All your private property are belong to us (da gubmint).
Ruffus is an idiot, but should he lose his house or life savings? Why smack a little dumb guy and put him down for a long count? The Pitts look to already have a better home than Ruffus, should they get all his money too?
A seller, ignorant of it's unenforceability, afraid of getting sued.
It looks like they live in such a pit now. / Sarc.
As one of the greast jurists in American history, Judge Wapner, used to say, "What are her damages?"
Talk about a no-brainer.....
What a ridiculous waste of taxpayer dollars. Send out a mailing telling homeowners that these restrictive covenants can no longer be enforced and leave it at that. Jesus.
He told them about the covenant out front and didn't attempt to hide it.
By the look of his house he doesn't have the money to take chances with a lawsuit over the sale of his house.
By his age and the look of his house he needs the money and just wants a quick sale.
He may be under the impression that by agreeing to the covenant when he purchased the house he is liable for the conditions of sale and he can't afford legal advice to determine if he is liable or not.
The Pitts house is many times more expensive, lavish even, compared to Rufus' humble digs.
This looks like a case of a comportable middle class Afro American professional couple taking advantage of a not too bright but decent poor white guy to get some publicity and a cheap revenue property.
Lord I never thought I'ld live to see the day when I would say something like that.
I bet you're right. I'd be interested to know if the black couple were actually in the market to buy a house. It sounds like they heard about the curmudgeonly old fart with a racist bent and decided to try and make a quick buck.
I don't even think he's racist.
I think he's probably being honest to a fault and he's financially strapped and not very knowledgeable about contract law. Which means he's like 90% of working class people.
I'm not familiar with the property values where the Pitts live but in my neighborhood they're house is $1.5 Million on the low side.
His house has mock brick duroid shingles on the side of it and a chain link garden fence!!!!
His front yard is 10 ft deep and theirs has room to build a guest house and a double wide driveway!!! The miracle is they don't even see the incongruity.
Where's the law that says rich black people are less venal and self interested than rich white people.
I think the guy is being beaten with two clubs, class and race. Unfortunately he's on the wrong side of both.
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