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Opening Acts: February 27, 2020

Lawsuit Alleges Source of Income Discrimination at Parkchester

CREDIT REQUIREMENT DISCRIMINATES AGAINST MAN WITH 100% RENTAL SUBSIDY

Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced that K.H., a man living with HIV, filed a lawsuit against Parkchester Preservation Company and its managing agent, Parkchester Preservation Management, LLC, alleging housing discrimination prohibited by New York City and State Human Rights Laws. The defendants own and manage 6,000 rental units at Parkchester in the Bronx. K.H. filed a fair housing complaint with the FHJC last year. The lawsuit alleges that, in August 2019, the defendants refused to rent to K.H., who was homeless at the time, after he revealed that he was receiving a rental subsidy from the New York City HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA), which provides tens of thousands of New Yorkers with a housing subsidy.

K.H. alleges the defendants rejected his application based upon his credit even though he possessed a subsidy that would pay 100% of the rent. “When they rejected me, I lost hope,” said the plaintiff K.H. “I thought to myself, I’ll never be able to rent an apartment, because of my credit, even though HASA is paying the whole thing.” In 2019, the New York State Human Rights Law was amended to prohibit discrimination based on a prospective tenant’s lawful source of income, such as a HASA rent subsidy, a practice long prohibited under the New York City Human Rights Law. This is believed to be one of the first lawsuits filed under the State’s new source of income law.

“Where, as here, the City agrees to pay the full market rent directly to the landlord, the recipient’s credit is irrelevant,” said Armen H. Merjian, Senior Staff Attorney at Housing Works and co-counsel for K.H. “This spurious justification is often a subterfuge for other forms of discrimination, and would render the law meaningless, the fight against homelessness and discrimination based upon source of income futile.”

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated: “With source of income protections, landlords need to evaluate their tenant selection criteria to ensure their policies do not discriminate against vulnerable populations using rental subsidies. Credit worthiness becomes an irrelevant and inappropriate consideration when, as in this case, a government program is paying all of the rent.” In December 2016, the FHJC filed an administrative complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights against the same defendants, alleging source of income discrimination against prospective applicants with Section 8 vouchers, HASA subsidies, and other rental subsidies. That complaint is scheduled for a hearing later this year.

K.H. is seeking damages and injunctive relief that would bring the defendants into compliance with fair housing laws and ensure non-discrimination in the future. K.H. is represented by Diane L. Houk and Emma L. Freeman with the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP and Armen H. Merjian and Elena Rodriguez of Housing Works. The suit was filed in New York County Supreme Court.

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 enforcement of fair housing laws in the New York City region.