Fair Housing Act charges filed in New Jersey
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the owners of two apartment buildings in North Arlington, NJ, will pay $21,000 under an Initial Decision and Consent Order resolving allegations that the owners violated the Fair Housing Act by denying rental opportunities to prospective African-American tenants.
After a lengthy investigation, HUD discovered that Michael and Mary Ann Pontoriero refused to show apartments in either of the two buildings they own and after learning a prospective tenant was African American, they refused to return their calls. A HUD investigation found the discriminatory behavior in four separate tests conducted by local Fair Housing authorities.
HUD brought these charges on behalf of the prospective tenant after he called to inquire about one of Pontoriero’s apartments. A showing was scheduled anad confirmed but HUD reports that the building owners never showed once it was learned the man was African American. Local HUD authorities conducted four paired tests using a white tester and black tester in each test, resulting in Michael Pontoriero refusing to show up for appointments or return calls when he learned a potential renter was African American.
Actively discouraging African Americans from renting
Additionally, the owner was accused of driving by or arriving early to the appointment to discover a prospect’s race and that when he did end up showing a unit to an African American tester, he failed to highlight apartment features or go with them from room to room as he had white testers, then failed to provide an application, and actively discouraged black testers from applying to rent. Lastly, one test found that he quoted an African American tester $100 more per month than the white tester on the same day.
“Fair housing testing – where people of different backgrounds pose as applicants for housing – remains our most effective tool for exposing illegal housing discrimination that still too often occurs in this country,” stated Bryan Greene, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue to take enforcement action against individuals and housing providers who violate the Fair Housing Act.”
The Fair Housing Act
The Federal Fair Housing Act, established in 1968, protects civil rights in housing and prohibits housing providers, including condominium associations, from denying housing to anyone based on \a person’s national origin, sex, race, religion, or color.
In 1988, disability (codified by the ADA in 1990) and familial status were both included, many states and local communities also have also included members of the military as a protected class, and now, the National Association of Realtors has amended the Code of Ethics to include protections for all sexual orientations. HUD, along with all HUD insured housing likewise announced that they will not discriminate against actual or perceived sexually identity, or orientation.
In HUD’s words, “The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful for a housing provider to refuse to make a reasonable accommodation in its rules, policies, practices, or services when needed to provide persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use or enjoy a dwelling.”