Opening Acts Newsletter: October 1, 2014

Disability and Source of Income Discrimination Case Settled

LeFrak Organization, Inc. Agrees to Pay $262,500 to Resolve Lawsuit

On August 20, 2014, Federal Judge Denise L. Cote approved a settlement resolving a rental discrimination case filed in April 2013 by the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and a client of Housing Works, Inc.  who sought to use her rental subsidy from the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) to rent an apartment at the 5000-unit Lefrak City complex in Queens, New York.  In response to a complaint referred by Housing Works, the FHJC deployed undercover “testers” to investigate.  Based on the results of this investigation, a federal lawsuit was filed alleging that the Lefrak Organization Inc., and its subsidiary rental management company, Estates NY Real Estate Services LLC d/b/a Kings and Queens Leasing and LeFrak City were discriminating on the basis of disability and source of income. While the defendants denied any liability or wrongdoing, the parties reached an agreement which addresses all of the concerns raised in the lawsuit.

In the settlement, the defendants agreed to adopt a non-discrimination policy and distribute it to employees and agents; apply rental policies and application procedures equally to all prospective tenants, including tenants with rental subsidies or vouchers; display the equal housing opportunity poster; provide fair housing training to employees; and maintain rental records for a period of three (3) years.  The defendants also agreed to report to the FHJC on rental buildings with tenants using HASA rental subsidies.  In addition, the parties obtained an agreement from the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) that it will begin providing HASA recipients with a letter setting forth the monetary range for the rental subsidy that HASA will pay.  Finally, the defendants agreed to pay $262,500 to the plaintiffs in damages, costs, and attorneys’ fees.  The plaintiffs were represented by Diane L. Houk with the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, LLP and Armen H. Merjian and Robert F. Bacigalupi with Housing Works, Inc.

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated “The parties reached a settlement which ensures that, going forward, housing opportunities under the control of this housing provider are made available on an equal basis to all renters with public subsidies, including New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS.”  Freiberg added, “We know that people living with symptomatic HIV or AIDS need a decent, stable, and sanitary place to call home for their health and well-being.  We hope this outcome will open up additional housing opportunities for renters with HASA and other rental subsidies.”