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Punished: White landlords in DL who refused to rent to black woman

Two white landlords in Detroit Lakes refused to rent one of their properties to "those kind of people" -- namely a black woman -- and must now pay her more than $25,000.

According to a Star Tribune story by Paul Walsh, the landlords -- Pearl Beck, 92, and her son, Gregory Beck, 51, both of Detroit Lakes -- agreed to the penalty as part of a settlement filed in federal court Thursday in Minneapolis.

Despite the agreement, the younger Beck told the Star Tribune Friday that government officials "were lied to" and "want to believe the minority because that's what they represent."

Beck, who said he's married to an American Indian, said he and his mother have never discriminated when renting, noting, "We got Indians in our rentals, we got a gay person in our rentals, we got a Mexican in our rentals."

He said he and his mother have had no blacks as tenants in their many decades as landlords: "We don't see that many around here ... They don't want to come up here because it's too cold."

White man got the place

Specifically, authorities concluded, the Becks violated the federal Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent a dwelling based on the race of prospective tenant, Ranesha Halliburton, 25, in July 2007.

A month after turning down Halliburton, the Becks rented the same home to a white man, according to federal officials.

Halliburton found a home elsewhere in Detroit Lakes and filed a complaint with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The U.S. attorney's office sued the Becks in May 2009.

In its complaint, the federal government alleged that in July 2007, Halliburton answered an ad for a duplex unit for rent on West Lake Avenue in Detroit Lakes. In an initial telephone conversation, Pearl Beck said that the residence was available. She later acknowledged to HUD not knowing the caller's race at the time of the phone call.

But when Halliburton arrived to see the property with her boyfriend and his father, Pearl Beck said it was not for rent, adding, "No way. No way. It's not for rent. I can't do this. I'm not renting to these kinds of people."

The next day, according to HUD, a white woman and acquaintance of Halliburton's posed as a prospective renter and met Pearl Beck at the same property. The acquaintance asked Pearl Beck whether she rented to blacks or American Indians. The landlord responded, "A carload of them came by the other day, but I will keep that unit vacant or move in myself before renting to blacks."

Landlord claimed other reasons

Halliburton contacted Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota, and one of its attorneys called Pearl Beck. She told the attorney that her tenants next door had told her that they would move out if she rented to "black people." The attorney said that type of discrimination was illegal.

Beck then said Halliburton had dogs, and that was why she turned her down. She added that the home was too small for the prospective tenant, and that she planned to move in there herself.

As part of the agreement, the Becks not only must pay Halliburton, $25,500, but they must cease refusing to rent property based on race, display fair-housing materials in all of their rental properties and include the words "Equal Housing Opportunity" in any of their advertising material.

They also must attend a training program focusing on the race-related provisions of federal, state, and local fair housing laws.