Opening Acts: June 16, 2017

Race Discrimination Case Involving Brooklyn Rental Building Resolved

Agreement Aims at Ensuring Compliance with Fair Housing Laws

Yesterday, the Hon. Allyne B. Ross approved a settlement agreement to resolve a federal lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) by the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and four African American testers in October 2016.  The lawsuit alleged that the defendants Martin Rankell, LP, Robert Rankell, Anastas Karakasidi, and Faina Karakasidi discriminated against African American prospective renters on the basis of race.

The lawsuit stemmed from a 5-month testing investigation of a 60-unit apartment building in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn.  According to the complaint, the FHJC alleged that while white testers were told about and shown available apartments, African American testers were repeatedly lied to about apartment availabilities, quoted higher rents, and steered to other buildings.

While the defendants deny the allegations, the 4-year settlement agreement reached with the FHJC contains injunctive relief to ensure future compliance with fair housing laws.  Some of the key provisions include:

  • General injunction not to discriminate against persons on the basis of race or color in the rental of housing;
  • Adoption of a fair housing policy to be distributed to all personnel who are involved in showing and renting out apartments;
  • Agreement to advertise apartments made available for rent and include in any advertisements “Equal Housing Opportunity,” the number of bedrooms, amount of rent, and address for any available apartments, and the contact information for the person designated to show any available apartments;
  • Training on fair housing laws for all persons directly involved in renting apartments;
  • Maintenance of rental records that will be made available for review by the FHJC to document efforts made to comply with the terms of the settlement.

In addition, the settlement also provides a monetary recovery for plaintiffs of $107,500.

The plaintiffs are represented by Mariann Wang and Alexander Goldenberg of Cuti Hecker Wang LLP.

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg commented that “The FHJC is pleased that the parties were able to reach a settlement that includes provisions to ensure future compliance with fair housing laws as well as damages for the plaintiffs.”

Freiberg emphasized that while the testing in this case involved only one rental building, it should not be viewed as an isolated example.  He added, “Nearly four decades after the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act, our organization continues to document how African American renters in the New York City region have their housing choices restricted by landlords and real estate agents.  Everyone needs to understand that pervasive racial discrimination in housing has enormous and perilous consequences for individuals, families, and our entire region.  The fact that the practices are subtle, less visible, and rarely detected by actual home seekers does not make them any less insidious or harmful.  The persistence of these invisible walls provides ample evidence that a color line still exists.”

The mission of the FHJC, a nonprofit civil rights organization, is to eliminate housing discrimination; promote policies and programs that foster open, accessible, and inclusive communities; and strengthen fair housing enforcement in the New York City region.