Tenants in southeastern Virginia alleged a landlord left properties in dilapidated states and repeatedly inflicted racist and sexist harassment on renters.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring last week filed an $8 million housing discrimination lawsuit against David Merryman, who owns several rental properties worth $5 million. Herring told The Daily Beast the suit was the first of its kind in the state.
The lawsuit alleges Merryman, who is white, frequently used the N-word and made racist claims about Black people to tenants residing in his Newport News and Hampton properties. One tenant claims Merryman said Black people should “go back to Africa,” according to The Daily Beast.
Merryman told The Daily Beast in response to the allegations that he doesn’t harass or target Black renters, but claims white renters aren’t behind on rent.
“Is that a coincidence or is that just weird?” Merryman asked. “I don’t know what the pattern is called. Black Lives Matter?”
One white tenant, 24-year-old Samantha Feeley, told the outlet she fell behind on rent for her apartment during the pandemic after paying funeral expenses for a stillborn child. In screenshots of texts reported by the outlet, Merryman demanded rent payment from Feeley’s boyfriend and told them to “pay your bills like other white people” before calling Feeley a “n—-r lover.”
“He is a monster,” Feeley told The Daily Beast.
In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced its nationwide eviction moratorium was set to end in October. In turn, Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill extending the state’s eviction protection until June 30, 2022.
In responding to the suit, Merryman told the outlet he “used to date a Black girl” and was suspicious of the action’s timing as state relief has been slow to pay out and he was readying to take action against tenants who owe rent.
The landlord has been arrested more than a dozen times and was suspended from a local housing authority due to the condition of his Section 8 rentals, according to records obtained by the outlet. He also reportedly has 188 code violations in the past three years in Newport News, 35 of which are outstanding and four are weaving through the courts.
[The Daily Beast] — Holden Walter-Warner