May 07, 2019
RICHMOND, VA—Today, Hardiman Law PLLC principal Helen Hardiman and Clare Locke LLP lawyer Daniel P. Watkins announced an important settlement against H. Dean Parsons III and Intermont LLC, a major landlord in Richmond, Virginia, following allegations that Parsons engaged in illegal conduct, including housing discrimination, harassment, maintaining substandard living conditions, and using racial epithets against Black women renters in the city. Please note: Parsons’s profanity, racial epithets, and misogynistic language are referenced below.
Parsons—represented by Thomas M. Wolf of the law firm LeClair Ryan—has paid an undisclosed amount of money to one of his former tenants, Winter Whittaker, following Whittaker’s nightmare experience in one of Parsons’s Richmond properties. After Parsons refused to make necessary repairs and failed to remediate fleas and rodents, Whittaker recorded Parsons yelling racial epithets and attempting to bully her into either accepting the hazardous conditions or to leave the house before the end of her lease term.
The investigation into Parsons revealed that he dismissed Whittaker’s maintenance requests, telling her to “shut the fuck up and leave me alone. You don’t mean shit to me. Get the goddamn hell out of my house, the quicker the better.” When she told Parsons that she would file a lawsuit for his abuse, he replied, “you’re just another dumbass nigger I got to go to court with.”
Parsons also told Whittaker, “I hate renting to single Black bitches…just get the fuck out of my house!”
But Ms. Whittaker persisted. After the abuse became unbearable, she retained Richmond lawyer Helen Hardiman, whose practice enforces fair housing laws. After conducting a preliminary investigation, Hardiman reached out to Daniel P. Watkins of Clare Locke LLP who agreed to take on the case and serve as lead trial counsel.
Hardiman and Watkins drafted a lawsuit alleging violations of the Virginia Fair Housing Law—including discriminatory conditions and hostile living environment – and the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act. In this case, the parties were able to resolve the matter before filing.
“The allegations in this case were beyond disturbing,” Hardiman said. “Ms. Whittaker dutifully paid rent, but Parsons failed to uphold his side of the lease, including making repairs to keep the home habitable. And under no circumstances is it ever acceptable to speak to anyone like Parsons did to Ms. Whittaker—using racial and gender slurs to intimidate and demean her.”
“Parsons’s conduct towards Ms. Whittaker in this case was unconscionable and completely unacceptable. I have hope that this settlement will send a message throughout the Commonwealth: Housing discrimination is forbidden, and no landlord is above the law,” said Watkins, a defamation lawyer based in Alexandria, Virginia.
Although the details surrounding the parties’ settlement remain confidential, Hardiman described her elation with the outcome, “We are honored to have achieved this victory alongside Ms. Whittaker who we commend for her bravery and for taking a stand against this discrimination.”
While the effects of discrimination never truly disappear, Whittaker is pleased with the outcome: “I want my kids, my neighbors, and everyone to know that they don’t have to tolerate this kind of treatment. Tenants have rights to fair and safe housing that landlords must respect. When landlords break the law, there will be real consequences.”