Opening Acts Newsletter: November 3, 2014

No Peace of Mind for Voucher Holders in NYC

Landlords, Property Managers, and Real Estate Companies Face Lawsuit Alleging Source of Income Discrimination

On October 31, 2014, Ms. B., a single working mother with a Section 8 housing voucher, filed a state court lawsuit in Manhattan alleging that a dozen landlords, property managers, and real estate companies discriminated against her because she has a rental subsidy in violation in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law. The lawsuit names Peace of Mind Realty, Premier Metro Realty Corp., 1675 Lincoln LLC, Zuz Realty Corp., Golden Life Realty Corp., IMS Realty Group LLC, Cortelyou Realty & Estates, Inc., 5 Linden LLC, Spire Group Inc., Open Housing Management, LLC, NY Standard Realty LLC, Bridge and Tunnel Real Estate Brokerage, and individual agents for these companies as defendants. Since 2008, the New York City Human Rights Law has prohibited discrimination in housing based on source of income, including rental subsidies.

Earlier this year, Ms. B. complained to the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) that multiple rental housing providers were discriminating against her based on the fact that she planned to use a Section 8 housing voucher to pay a portion of her rent. The FHJC conducted an undercover testing investigation into these allegations. The FHJC provided additional assistance to Ms. B. by having trained testers contact other housing providers on her behalf in response to rental advertisements featuring two bedroom apartments that were in her price range and met her needs. FHJC testers were repeatedly informed that the advertised housing was not available to persons with rental subsidies.

According to the complaint, overt statements were made by many of the defendants indicating that tenants with rental assistance would not be considered such as “We don’t have any two bedrooms that are accepting Section 8,” “Section 8’s gonna be a problem,” or they will not “take programs.” As a result of this rampant discrimination and an inability to find a home for her and her son, Ms. B. has remained homeless since May, 2014.

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief to stop the discrimination, as well as damages and attorney’s fees. The plaintiff is represented by Mariann Meier Wang and Daniel Mullkoff with the law firm of Cuti Hecker Wang LLP.

Attorney Mariann Wang stated, “Six years after New York City prohibited source of income discrimination in housing, many real estate brokers, property managers, and landlords still blatantly refuse to follow the law. That refusal prevents hardworking people like my client from finding a home. Having a housing subsidy should not be an impediment to finding a decent place to live.”

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “This case illustrates the human, social, and economic costs associated with pervasive housing discrimination. Discrimination in housing prevents people from finding suitable housing in many neighborhoods. Not only is it a personal indignity and an affront to all New Yorkers, but it disrupts families and contributes to homelessness.” Freiberg added, “This lawlessness must stop. The City needs to more vigorously enforce its Human Rights Law, including the ban on source of income discrimination. In addition, the New York Department of State must be more pro-active and ensure that real estate licensees who continue to engage in housing discrimination lose their licenses to do business in the State of New York.”