United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
KIMBERLY BELCHER, et al. PLAINTIFFS
THE GRAND RESERVE MGM, LLC, et al. DEFENDANTS
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
STARRETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
holding a bench trial, receiving the parties' briefs, and
carefully considering the parties' evidence and
arguments, the Court finds as follows: 1) Plaintiffs
presented no credible evidence of racial discrimination, 2)
Plaintiffs' claims of familial discrimination fail
because Defendants were responding to legitimate safety
concerns, 3) Defendants did not retaliate against Plaintiffs,
and 4) Defendants did not substantially interfere with
Plaintiffs' use or enjoyment of the subject property. The
Court will enter a separate judgment in favor of Defendants.
case involves claims under the Fair Housing Act
(“FHA”), the Alabama Fair Housing Law
(“ALFHL”),  and Alabama common law. Defendants own
and lease apartments at the Grand Reserve Pike Road apartment
complex in Pike Road, Alabama. Plaintiffs are an
African-American family and lived in the Grand Reserve for a
period of time. Plaintiffs claim that Defendants created and
enforced several rules that were designed to discriminate
against African-American residents and residents with
children. Plaintiffs also claim that Defendants retaliated
against them with harassment, threats, and fines when they
complained about these rules and/or attempted to enjoy the
complex's facilities. On November 27-29, 2017, the Court held
a bench trial on the following claims: 1) racial
discrimination under the FHA and ALFHL, 2) familial-status
discrimination under the FHA and ALFHL, 3) retaliation under
the FHA and ALFHL, and 4) breach of covenant of quiet
enjoyment under Alabama common law. The parties provided
post-trial briefs, and the Court is prepared to rule.
Findings of Fact
Defendant, The Grand Reserve MGM, LLC, is a Limited Liability
Company doing business as “The Grand Reserve Pike
Defendant Grand Reserve is a 376-unit upscale apartment
complex located in Pike Road, Alabama.
Defendant is engaged in the business of renting units at The
Grand Reserve Pike Road to members of the public.
Plaintiffs became tenants of the Grand Reserve apartments in
Plaintiffs renewed their lease for another year on or about
August 2, 2015.
The Court's Findings of Fact
Grand Reserve offers the following amenities: multiple
playgrounds, two swimming pools, a fitness center/gym, a
sauna, a pond, a gated entrance, tanning beds, laundry
facilities, picnic tables, grills, and a clubhouse.
Apartments at the Grand Reserve were occupied by families and
single persons of different races.
Families moved into the Grand Reserve so that their children
could attend the Pike Road school district.
Plaintiffs moved into the Grand Reserve because they liked
the amenities offered, and because the apartments were
Every Grand Reserve tenant's lease contained the
following provision: “The Lessee agrees to comply with
and to cause Lessee's guests and family members to comply
with the rules and regulations for the apartment complex . .
.; and the Lessee agrees that the rules and regulations may
be amended from time to time by the Lessor, and notice of
such amendments of rules and regulations shall be
sufficiently given by . . . personal delivery or posting a
copy thereof on the door of the leased premises. IT IS AGREED
THAT THE VIOLATION OF ANY SUCH RULES AND REGULATIONS BY THE
LESSEE OR ANY OF THE LESSEE'S GUESTS OR FAMILY MEMBERS
SHALL CONSTITUTE A DEFAULT IN THE TERMS OF THIS LEASE.”
lease also provided: “No lessee shall make, or permit
to be made by his family members or guest(s), any disturbing
noises or interfere in any way with rights of other residents
of the operation of the property by the Lessor or his
lease also provided: “No children under the age of
sixteen (16) may use the fitness equipment.” The gym
equipment also had visible manufacturers' warnings
against use by children.
lease provided: “No children under the age of (16)
years will be allowed in or about the swimming pool area
unless accompanied by an adult . . . .” The purpose of
this rule was to promote safety, as there were no lifeguards
Grand Reserve tenants and guests were required to wear a
wristband when using the pools. The purpose of this rule was
to limit use of the pool to tenants and their guests.
Children from a neighborhood near the Grand Reserve would
come in large numbers to use the Grand Reserve's pools.
lease also provided: “Should the Lessee, his family or
guest(s) fail to maintain a standard of behavior consistent
with the consideration necessary to provide reasonable peace
and quiet to other tenants, as determined solely by Lessor,
such as by being boisterous or disorderly, acting in an
offensive manner and/or using offensive language toward the
Lessor, Lessor's agents and employees or potential
lessess, creating undue noise, disturbance, or nuisance of
any nature or kind, then Lessee shall be in default of this
the time relevant to this case, Brittany Allen, an
African-American woman, was the property manager at the Grand
Reserve. She lived in the same building as Plaintiffs.
late spring to early summer of 2015, Allen began receiving
complaints from residents about the behavior of children in
the apartment complex. Specifically, residents complained
a. Used condoms and marijuana were found on the playground.
b. Girls' underwear was found in the sauna.
c. A yoga ball had been stuck under the belt on a treadmill
in the gym, rendering the machine useless. Children had also
been “running sideways” on the treadmills and
d. Children would throw balls and/or other toys and hit
e. Older children were gambling/throwing dice in the
breezeways of the ...