Opening Acts Newsletter: October 26, 2012

Realty Firms Resolve Housing Discrimination Complaints

During 2008 and 2009, New York City real estate agents repeatedly refused to show apartments to a homeless man with disabilities who had income from SSI and a Fixed Income Advantage Voucher (FIAV) upon learning that he did not work and received a rental subsidy and disability-related benefits. The FHJC assisted the complainant with his housing search and conducted a testing investigation. On April 23, 2010, the individual complainant and the FHJC filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging disability and source of income discrimination in violation of local, state, and federal fair housing laws. The lawsuit named, as defendants, ten real estate companies, a landlord, and the licensed real estate agents who were contacted during the investigation. The complainant, who was represented by the Urban Justice Center, resolved his claims with all of the defendants and obtained rental housing and damages. The FHJC resolved its claims with several of the smaller real estate companies and obtained a default judgment regarding one company. In September 2012, a settlement was reached with Bayside New York Homes LLC (d/b/a Keller Williams Realty Landmark) and agent Frank Maiorca and with City Connections Realty, Inc. and agent Randy Baruh.

The agreement includes extensive injunctive relief to ensure that both companies, Bayside New York Homes LLC and City Connections Realty, Inc., comply with local, state, and federal fair housing laws. Both companies must provide fair housing training to their agents and employees and adopt, display, and communicate a non-discrimination policy. City Connections Realty, Inc. also agreed not to charge applicants with a public source of income any fee for holding an apartment off the market while the housing provider evaluates the prospective renter. To cover damages, costs, and attorney’s fees, the FHJC also obtained a monetary settlement of $95,000 from Bayside New York Homes LLC and $150,000 from City Connections Realty, Inc.

The lawsuit continues against Bond New York Properties Brokerage LLC as the sole remaining defendant in the case. The FHJC is represented by Attorneys Diane L. Houk and Debra L. Greenberger with the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP.

US Attorney Halts Race Discrimination at Bronx Apartment Building 

A resident manager of a 72-unit apartment building in Riverdale admitted in a court document that, in 2009, he illegally misrepresented to African American testers that apartments were unavailable to rent while informing white testers about available apartments. The testers were sent to the building by the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC).

On October 16, 2012, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced a settlement involving the owners and managers of the Bronx apartment building. The consent order resolved a complaint filed in September 2011 by the Department of Justice which alleged that the owners and managers of an apartment building located at 3800 Independence Avenue in the Riverdale section of the Bronx were engaged in a pattern and practice of racial discrimination. Besides an admission of liability by the resident manager, Jesus Velasco, the consent decree enjoins defendants from engaging in unlawful housing discrimination. The settlement also binds the owner, Loventhal Silver Riverdale, and the property management company, Goodman Management, to implement uniform, non-discriminatory policies and procedures, train their employees on federal and state fair housing laws, and submit periodic reports on their rental activities to the United State for three years. In addition, the settlement includes a monetary recovery of $75,000 in which the owner and resident manager established a $35,000 fund to compensate victims of discrimination and paid a $40,000 civil penalty to the United States.

In a news release, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara thanked the Fair Housing Justice Center for its assistance in the investigation. FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg expressed his appreciation to the U.S. Attorney for his leadership in vigorously enforcing fair housing laws. Freiberg stated, “This case provides yet another example of how a working partnership between a non-profit fair housing organization and a government law enforcement agency can effectively remove discriminatory barriers and strengthen enforcement of fair housing laws. Our partnership amply demonstrates the value of a more coordinated and pro-active approach to enforcing fair housing laws.” Freiberg added, “Subtle forms of housing discrimination are often difficult for ordinary consumers to detect. If housing discrimination is not detected, it is not reported. For this reason, the FHJC will continue to use testing to document and eliminate furtive and systemic housing discrimination throughout the New York City region.”

Creating Places Where All Are Welcome: A Progress Report

If you are interested in learning more about the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC), you may call (212) 400-8201 or email fhjc@fairhousingjustice.org and request a free copy of FHJC’s latest publication entitled “Creating Places Where All Are Welcome: A Progress Report.” The report details the activities and accomplishments of the FHJC from its inception to the present. This FHJC report describes our progress in creating more open, accessible, and inclusive communities throughout the New York City region.

FHJC Rental Search Logs Aid Tenants to Search for Housing 

Searching for an apartment or home can be a costly, time-consuming, and often frustrating process. It requires a lot of hard work and demands that careful thought and consideration be given to a variety of factors. The FHJC has produced a Rental Search Log, available in English and Spanish, which enables renters to keep track of their housing search.

The Rental Search Log, which looks like an ordinary notebook on the outside, contains pre-printed forms that help tenants document their contacts with rental agents, property managers, and real estate brokers. Tenants can use the log to take notes, record likes and dislikes about available apartments, and keep track of information concerning rents, security deposits, lease terms, amenities, and other information. Having this information can help a consumer compare options and make an informed choice about where to live. Information on fair housing rights is also provided in the Rental Search Log. Renters may request a copy of the Rental Search Log by calling (212) 400-8201 or by sending an email to fhjc@fairhousingjustice.org. Also, the FHJC Rental Search Logs are also being made available to housing programs operated by non-profit or government agencies involved in assisting tenants to locate rental housing.