Sunday, August 02, 2015

NYC Civil Rights Group Shakes $150K In Damages, Attorney Fees Out Of Local Landlord In Resolution Of Race Discrimination Allegations Made By Black Renter, Two Fair Housing Testers; Victim To Share In Cash Settlement & Scores Apartment w/ Two Years Free Rent

In New York City, the Fair Housing Justice Center recently announced:
  • On July 16, 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Seibel signed an agreement resolving a housing discrimination lawsuit involving rental housing in New Rochelle, New York in Westchester County. The complaint, filed in December 2014, by the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC), two African American testers, and an African American renter alleged that the owners and managers of the 216-unit Pelham East Apartments engaged in racially discriminatory rental practices. The lawsuit named, as defendants, Fraken Builders, Inc., La Sala Mason Corp., Rochambeau Realty & Development Corp., Andrew LaSala, and Andrea La Sala Suter.

    The lawsuit resulted from a complaint filed with the FHJC by Ms. P., an African American woman who alleged that she tried, without success, for over a year to obtain an apartment at this rental complex. FHJC conducted a testing investigation which corroborated the allegation and yielded evidence that agents were misrepresenting to African American testers that no apartments were available, while providing information about available apartments and showing apartments to comparably qualified white testers.

    The testing was funded through a Fair Housing Initiatives Program grant from the United State Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

    As part of the injunctive relief in this case, the defendants agreed to adopt, post, and distribute a fair housing policy, require employees and agents to participate in fair housing training, ensure that available rental units are publicly advertised, and require uniform standards and procedures for showing available apartments and dispensing information about them. In addition, the individual plaintiff, Ms. P., will be able to lease an apartment with two years free rent.

    The order provides that the defendants will maintain rental records and the FHJC will be able to monitor compliance with the agreement for a period of four years. Finally, the defendants agreed to pay the plaintiffs a total of $150,000 for damages and attorney’s fees. The plaintiffs are represented by Mariann Meier Wang and Alice G. Reiter with the law firm of Cuti Hecker Wang LLP.

    FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg(1) commented, “The grim reality for many New Yorkers is that their ability to obtain housing continues to turn on illegal considerations such as race or color. The outcome in this case demonstrates what can happen when individuals exercise their fair housing rights with assistance from private fair housing organizations like the FHJC.” Freiberg added, “It is painfully ironic that we, once again, demonstrate the effectiveness of testing as an investigative tool at a time when Congress has been debating measures that, if enacted, would have eliminated federal funding for fair housing testing. This is a time in our nation’s history when government at all levels should be devoting greater resources to fighting all forms of racial discrimination in housing.”
Source: Westchester Landlord Alters Rental Practices and Pays $150,000 (African American Woman To Obtain Apartment, Damages, And Free Rent For 2 Years).

(1) A December, 2012 ProPublica investigative report (No Sting: Feds Won’t Go Undercover to Prove Housing Discrimination) describes Fred Freiberg's approach to the use of professional actors as fair housing testers and recording devices when conducting undercover housing discrimination investigations, and sophisticated mapping software to identify enclaves in New York City where the racial patterns of housing conflict with area demographics and income.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home