Has a Broward business crossed the line when it comes to discrimination?

Mobile home park charges different fees to international renters

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – A South Florida mobile home park is under fire for the astronomical fees it is charging certain people.

In some cases application fees are three times higher depending on where an applicant is from.

"Something is not right," said Keenya Robertson, president of Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence.

Robertson has been a fair housing advocate for almost 25 years.

"I have never seen anything like it," she said.

Lakeside Park Estates, owned by Trinity Broadcasting, is located just west of Interstate 95 on Pembroke Road in Pembroke Park.

It's a 55-and-older community made up mostly of Canadians who come to Florida for the winter.

The first page of the rental application spells out exactly what you'll be charged to process the application.

A U.S. resident would pay $50 and it goes up -- in some cases, skyrockets.

A Colombian would pay $175 per person.

"People are being treated differently because they are from a different country. That is a violation of the Fair Housing Act," Robertson said.

Robertson said another thing that raises an eyebrow on the application fee page is who's missing.

"I'm missing countries that are represented in South Florida significantly by black people. Jamaica, the Bahamas and Haiti are missing," Robertson said.

Local 10 News sent a producer, with a hidden camera, into Lakeside Park Estates.

The producer said her parents were from Haiti and wanted to know what the application fee would be because it's not listed.

The Local 10 News producer was told to call back.

When she did she was told the application fee for a Haitian to rent is $175 dollars.

"This should not be going on," said attorney Matthew Dietz of the Disability Independence Group.

Dietz has handled hundreds of cases involving the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights laws.

"I have never seen other housing providers do the same thing," he said.

"We do get a lot of complaints about this," said Virnalise Velez, who works in the office at Lakeside Park Estates.
Velez was asked by Local 10 News investigative reporter Jeff Weinsier whether she thought the higher fees were fair.

"No, I don't. I'm from the Dominican Republic and I'd have to pay $75 instead of $50," she told Weinsier.

A man named Julian who said he was the property manager in training told Weinsier background checks from overseas cost more money and they are simply passing the cost on to the applicant.

"There is a way to do it right, and they have missed the mark here," Robertson said. "Bottom line is you need to treat everyone the same."

Local 10 News went to another mobile home park down the street from Lakeside Park Estates to see if these different prices are the norm. They aren't.

At Holiday Park mobile home park on Hallandale Beach Boulevard, Local 10 News was told there was a $60 flat application fee for all.

Michael Everett of Lakeside Park Estate's parent company, Trinity Broadcasting, said they do not consider what they are doing discrimination, but he told Weinsier they were considering a flat fee to avoid the perception. At this point, nothing has changed.

Local 10 News checked with several different companies that do background checks to see whether you can even get criminal and financial backgrounds from different counties. Local 10 News was told you can, but in most cases some of the information is very limited.

About the Author:

Jeff Weinsier joined Local 10 News in September 1994. He is currently an investigative reporter for Local 10. He is also responsible for the very popular Dirty Dining segments.