New Jersey Housing Discrimination: 14 Cases Unveiled Against Agencies and Landlords
The Attorney General of New Jersey, Matthew J. Platkin, alongside the Division on Civil Rights (DCR), announced they had identified 22 entities, comprising thirteen property owners and nine real estate agencies, suspected of contravening the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). This law strictly prohibits discrimination against individuals seeking rental housing based on their source of income, particularly government rental assistance.
The investigation was propelled by eight complaints from the Housing Rights Initiative (HRI), a vigilant non-profit group. HRI's unique approach involved conducting phone tests with various housing providers, revealing a disturbing pattern of discrimination. Testers from HRI contacted real estate companies, brokers, and property owners, explicitly stating their intent to use Section 8 housing vouchers. The responses were overwhelmingly negative, with outright rejections, demonstrating a blatant disregard for the LAD.
Attorney General Platkin emphasized the fundamental right to quality and affordable housing, underscoring New Jersey's commitment to upholding civil rights laws and safeguarding the right to utilize government assistance for housing.
Sundeep Iyer, the Director of the Division on Civil Rights, highlighted the strategic focus on combating housing discrimination and praised HRI's efforts in exposing these injustices. This crackdown marks a renewed dedication to enforcing civil rights protections and holding violators accountable.
The complaints involve prominent real estate agencies – Keller Williams City Life Realty, Liberty Realty, Marshall Realty LLC, and Norkez Properties, LLC. – with cases spread across the state including housing providers in Bergen, Essex, and Hudson counties, including in Jersey City, Newark, North Bergen, and Rutherford.
Beyond the cases brought forward by HRI, six additional Findings of Probable Cause emerged from public complaints, targeting real estate agencies accused of discriminating based on income sources. These incidents extend across New Jersey, affecting Atlantic, Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, and Union counties. Among these, BHHS Fox and Roach faced two separate findings. Other agencies implicated include Century 21 Gemini Realty, Hudson Property Brokers, Re/Max, and Signature Realty, each confronting allegations of similar discriminatory practices.
The offenses range from direct rejections to discouraging potential tenants, showcasing a widespread issue within the state's housing sector. Under the LAD, housing providers cannot refuse to rent to potential tenants or discourage them from renting because they receive government rental assistance.
The issuance of Findings of Probable Cause is a critical step but not a final judgment; it indicates sufficient evidence for a reasonable suspicion of LAD violations. These findings pave the way for further legal proceedings, setting a precedent for rigorous enforcement of anti-discrimination laws in the housing sector.