The Fair Housing Justice Center is suing Bronx landlord Hamdi Nezaj, accusing him of discriminating among potential tenants on the basis of race and source of income. Nezaj told The Real Deal he is innocent of the charges.
The Financial District-based nonprofit claims to have sent several undercover workers, called “testers,” of various racial backgrounds and with various claimed sources of income to one of Nezaj’s rental offices.
According to the lawsuit, while Nezaj allegedly informed white testers of available units and offered tours, black testers were repeatedly told that no apartments were available, sometimes just minutes after the white testers had left.
In other cases, Nezaj allegedly quoted significantly higher asking prices to black testers than those offered to white testers for the same units, according to FHJC’s complaint.
The group also claims Nezaj discriminated similarly against prospective tenants who claimed they would utilize rental assistance to pay for units. If proven, the landlord’s alleged behavior would violate the federal Fair Housing Act.
“I do not discriminate,” Nezaj told TRD. “I have black, I have Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Pakistani.” The landlord also claimed he rented units at his properties through a real estate agency, apparently contradicting FHJC’s claims that he dealt with its testers personally.
According to the lawsuit, Nezaj’s son Lucky allegedly told one of the testers that his father “goes off of hunches” when deciding whether to rent to a prospective tenant.
FHJC didn’t immediately return a request for comment.