Saturday, June 04, 2016

Northern Virginia Mobile Home Park Operator Gets Tagged w/ Fair Housing Lawsuit Alleging Its Policy To Refuse Lease Renewals If Any Resident In Household Lacks Proof Of Legal Status Disproportionately Affects Latinos

In Fairfax County, Virginia, The Washington Post reports:
  • Four Latino families being evicted from a mobile-home park because at least one family member is undocumented and doesn’t have a Social Security number filed a federal civil rights lawsuit that advocates said could set a national precedent in fair-housing law.

    The families, who live at the Waples Mobile Home Park in Fairfax County, say they and more than a dozen of their neighbors are being forced to move because the park’s managers are refusing to renew their leases if any resident in the household lacks proof of legal status.
    Attorneys for the families are alleging that the requirement for all tenants to have a Social Security card, visa and related documents or a passport is discriminatory because it disproportionately affects Latinos. Similar policies imposed by cities and counties across the country have been overturned in federal courts but few, if any, suits have been filed against private landlords, the attorneys said.

    “This type of discrimination is all too common, but the law is unfortunately far from clear,” said Ivy Finkenstadt, managing attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center,(1) which is representing the families along with the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. “We are hoping that the federal court in Alexandria will take it one step further and prohibit this practice by a private landlord as well.”

    The 150-lot park is owned by a limited partnership headed by Albert J. Dwoskin and managed by the A.J. Dwoskin & Associates property management firm. Mike Dean, general counsel for the firm, and Josephine Giambanco, who is the on-site manager of Waples Mobile Home Park, both declined to comment on the lawsuit on Monday.

    Finkenstadt and other lawyers said the evictions have forced low-earning residents who had managed to get an ownership foothold in highly expensive Northern Virginia to slip back into the crowded, high-cost rental market.

    The policy of requiring Social Security numbers has been in place for years but wasn’t enforced until mid-2015, residents said. All of the families involved in the lawsuit have children who are U.S. citizens and include at least one adult with a Social Security number. All have lived in the park from between two and six years.

    According to the lawsuit, the park management told residents that the documents they sought were necessary to run criminal background checks. When offered other documents that would enable that research, such as Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers or passports from foreign countries, the landlord refused them, the lawsuit said.
For more, see Undocumented Latinos and their families sue after evictions.

For the lawsuit, see Reyes, et al. v. Waples Mobile Home Park Limited Partnership, et al.
(1) The Legal Aid Justice Center provides legal representation for low-income individuals in Virginia, having offices in Charlottesville, Falls Church, Petersburg and Richmond. In a separate, unrelated case, it reached a settlement with the City of Richmond, Virginia in a lawsuit alleging that the city used bullying code enforcement efforts (inspections with armed police escorts, arrest threats, unwarranted condemnation, etc.) targeting mostly non-English-speaking Latino mobile home owners.