Saturday, May 28, 2016

Posing As Landlords, Fair Housing Testers Sting Major Casualty Insurer w/ Housing Discrimination Lawsuit, Alleging Its Refusal To Provide Insurance To Landlords Who Rent To Section 8 Tenants Has A Disparate Impact On Black Renters, Female-Headed Households

In Washington, D.C., the National Fair Housing Alliance reports:
  • [T]he National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA)(1) announced the filing of a federal lawsuit alleging race, sex, and source of income discrimination against Travelers Indemnity Company (Travelers) for failing to provide habitational insurance to apartment owners who rent to tenants who participate in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program.

    This lawsuit is the result of an investigation by NFHA that uncovered this discriminatory business practice. The denial of insurance coverage because tenants subsidize their rental payments with Housing Choice Vouchers is a violation of the Fair Housing Act and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act because it has a disproportionate adverse impact on African Americans and female-headed households in Washington, D.C.

    Travelers’ business practices were discovered by NFHA’s investigators, who contacted five independent insurance agencies that market and underwrite Travelers insurance policies in the D.C. area. The investigators sought insurance coverage for multi-family apartment buildings located in Southeast Washington, D.C. When the investigators mentioned that the tenants participate in the Housing Choice Voucher program, often referred to as “Section 8,” every investigator was told that Travelers does not provide habitational insurance to apartment owners who rent to tenants using Section 8. The investigators were told to seek coverage from other insurance companies. Evidence gathered over ten months documented this ongoing pattern and practice of discrimination on the part of Travelers.
    Travelers’ alleged practices and underwriting guidelines have a discriminatory impact on the District’s most vulnerable households. Travelers’ policies disproportionately harm African Americans and women and deter apartment owners who want to help house low-income families in Washington, D.C.
    [Shanna L. Smith, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, stated], “This lawsuit should not take Travelers by surprise. Travelers has known since at least 2013 that denying insurance to apartment owners simply because some tenants use Housing Choice Vouchers violates fair housing laws. NFHA member Project Sentinel, and apartment owners who rented to tenants using government subsidies, sued Travelers in federal district court in San Jose, California, in 2013.(2) The parties reached a confidential settlement in July 2015 after the judge denied Travelers’ motion for summary judgment and after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld disparate impact as cognizable under the Fair Housing Act. Yet, Travelers continues to utilize this discriminatory policy in the District of Columbia.
For the press release, see Travelers Insurance Accused of Discrimination against Apartment Owners Renting to Tenants with Housing Choice Vouchers (Civil Rights Organization Files Federal Fair Housing Act Lawsuit Alleging Insurance Discrimination in Washington, D.C.).

Go here for the NFHA's Power Point presentation.

For the lawsuit, see National Fair Housing Alliance v. Travelers Indemnity Company, et ano.
(1) The National Fair Housing Alliance is a consortium of more than 220 private, non-profit fair housing organizations, state and local civil rights agencies, and individuals from throughout the United States. Its sole mission is to end discrimination in housing based on race, sex, and other protected classes covered by the Fair Housing Act and state and local fair housing laws, and to promote residential integration. It pursues its mission by, among other ways, investigating fair housing violations, and enforcing fair housing laws through lawsuits.

(2) See Jones v. Travelers (USDC, ND Cal.): Landlord Can Proceed with Unfair Housing Claims Against Insurer Based on Alleged Refusal to Renew Policy for Section 8 Property.

See generally, Not-So-Sudden Impact- Insurers Face New Breed of Fair Housing Act Claim.