New Jersey Targets Alleged Housing Discrimination Against Section 8 Voucher Holders

State officials announce enforcement actions against landlords and real estate agents in ten cases of suspected discrimination.

Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) have declared the issuance of Findings of Probable Cause in ten cases involving alleged discrimination by landlords and real estate agents under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). These cases, initiated by the Housing Rights Initiative (HRI), a non-profit watchdog, focus on discrimination against individuals intending to use Section 8 vouchers for rent payments.

The LAD mandates that prospective tenants cannot be denied housing opportunities due to their source of income, including government rental assistance like Section 8 vouchers. Despite this, DCR's findings indicate that in these ten instances, property owners and their agents unlawfully rejected applications from renters wishing to use such assistance.

The complaints originated from test cases where HRI-employed testers were explicitly informed—either in writing or through recorded conversations—that the properties would not accept housing vouchers, thereby providing clear evidence of discriminatory practices.

Attorney General Platkin emphasized that "access to safe, affordable housing is a basic right," condemning the discrimination faced by individuals with government rental assistance. Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights, remarked on the visibility of such discrimination, indicating its prevalence and the need for stringent enforcement.

The implicated properties include six in Jersey City, two in Newark, and one each in Garfield and Hillsdale. The real estate agencies identified in these violations are Boutique Realty, Realty Mark LLC, Rovazo Realty Group, Sokolich Real Estate Enterprises, and Weichert Realtors.

While the Findings of Probable Cause mark a significant step, they do not conclude the legal proceedings. They signify that DCR believes there is enough evidence to suspect a violation of the LAD. The cases now move to the conciliation stage, where the parties will try to resolve the issues voluntarily. If unresolved, the matter will escalate to being prosecuted by a Deputy Attorney General in either Superior Court or the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law.

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