Discrimination Testers Catch Landlord in the Act

HUD announced this week that it has charged the owners of two apartment buildings in North Arlington, New Jersey, with violating the Fair Housing Act for allegedly denying rental opportunities to African Americans.

According to the charge, the landlords refused to show apartments to or return the calls of a prospective tenant after learning that he is African American, and repeated these and other discriminatory behaviors against African Americans in four separate tests conducted by the Fair Housing Council of Northern New Jersey (FHCNNJ).

The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to rent or impose different rental terms or conditions on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status.

HUD brings this charge on behalf of the prospective tenant and FHCNNJ, a non-profit fair housing organization that receives funding from HUD to investigate claims of discrimination, after both filed complaints with the Department.

According to HUD’s charge, an African-American man inquired about an apartment he saw listed for rent. One of the landlords initially scheduled a time to show him the apartment and confirmed the appointment minutes before, but failed to appear, allegedly after learning the man is African American.

Believing that he was a victim of discrimination, the applicant contacted FHCNNJ, which conducted four paired tests using a white tester and a black tester in each test. The tests revealed that the landlord refused to show up for appointments and return calls after he learned that a tester was African American. The landlord allegedly would drive by or arrive to the appointment early in order to discover a prospective renter’s race.
The charge alleges further that when the landlord did show a unit to African-American testers, he did not accompany the tester room-to-room and point out the apartment’s features or provide an application as he did with white testers, and he actively discouraged black testers from applying to rent the property. In addition, he allegedly quoted a black tester a monthly rent of $100 more for a one-bedroom unit than he quoted a white tester.

Testing is a critical tool in exposing discriminatory treatment that might otherwise go undetected, said Bryan Greene, HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. HUD and its fair housing partners will continue to utilize trained testers to identify and end unlawful housing discrimination.

The landlord could face punitive damages if the case goes before a federal judge.

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