Voucher Holders Excluded from Queens Apartment Buildings
BUILDING OWNERS, BROKERS, SALESPERSONS NAMED IN SOURCE OF INCOME DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINT
Today, The Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced the filing of an administrative complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights alleging source of income discrimination at a 40-unit apartment building located at 37-53 62nd Street in Astoria, New York, and at a 3-unit apartment building located at 31-20 7th Street in East Elmhurst, New York. The defendants are building owners PSD Management LLC, Darshan Singh, and Gurbakhash Johal; PSD owner/agent Pavlos (Paul) Kesikiadis: licensed brokers Modern Spaces LLC and Modern Spaces Love Your Space, LLC; and licensed salesperson George Mouriadis.
During an undercover investigation conducted in the fall of 2021, an FHJC tester posing as a renter who would be using a Section 8 rental voucher spoke with Mr. Mouriadis to inquire about an available apartment at the Astoria building. The advertised rent for the apartment was within the rent payment standards for Section 8 vouchers in New York City, but Mr. Mouriadis stated that the owners required all applicants, even those using vouchers, to earn 40-times the monthly rent in order to qualify. Mr. Mouriadis stated that the owners had the right to impose this requirement because they lived in the building, and encouraged the tester to consider larger buildings operated by a management company, where the owners lived off-site.
No such provision exists in City or State Human Rights laws.
A subsequent tester, posing as a renter whose income was derived solely from employment, was shown the apartment by Mr. Kessikiadis. This tester expressed disinterest in the apartment for herself, but informed Mr. Kessikiadis that her “sister-in-law” who had a Section 8 voucher was also seeking an apartment. Mr. Kessikiadis asked the tester not to refer her family member, stating that Section 8 was “very troublesome for us.”
During a February 2022 investigation of the East Elmhurst building, FHJC testers were again treated differently based on the source of income used to pay their rent.
To the tester with a voucher, Mr. Mouriadis again stated that because the owners lived in the building, they were allowed to impose an income requirement of 40-times the monthly rent. He also falsely stated that there were only two apartments in the building, and made negative comments about the unit’s size and location in an attempt to steer the tester toward an apartment in a different neighborhood.
To the tester with income derived solely from employment, Mr. Mouriadis made positive statements about the apartment, correctly stated it was part of a 3-unit building, and offered to schedule a viewing appointment.
The lawsuit alleges violations of the New York State Human Rights Law and seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief to stop the source of income discrimination.
“A renter’s use of a Section 8 voucher means that a landlord will have guaranteed rent payments each month – which, in effect, are actually more reliable than rent payments from tenants with income solely from employment,” stated Madhulika Murali, FHJC’s Legal Coordinator. “Imposing a 40-times-the-monthly-rent requirement for tenants with vouchers is illogical and ultimately nothing more than a discriminatory and unlawful tactic to keep tenants with vouchers out of housing.”
The FHJC is represented by attorneys Diane L. Houk and Max Selver with the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP.
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.