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Jury finds Des Moines landlord discriminated against some

May 25, 2021 GMT

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Polk County jury has found that a Des Moines landlord discriminated against potential tenants based on their religion and national origin and ordered him to pay $50,000.

The jury award came last week in a lawsuit against Patrick Knueven brought by the Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Commission, the Des Moines Register reported. The commission said it received a complaint in 2015 from a woman who said Knueven treated her unfairly when he saw that she wore a hijab.

The commission then carried out an undercover investigation in which various people met with Knueven or toured his advertised properties. The commission said it built a case that Knueven quoted higher rent prices than advertised and acted with hostility toward nonwhite people with foreign accents or who identified as Muslim, while treating white potential renters fairly and quoting them the advertised rent prices.

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Knueven denied those claims in court filings.

The jury found that Knueven violated Des Moines’ human rights ordinance, which prohibits property managers and owners from steering prospective tenants or buyers into or out of an area because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, color, disability, familial status or source of income.