Compass settles discrimination suit, bumps Section 8 commissions

Housing Rights Initiative: Deal sets “important precedent” for real estate

From left: Compass CEO Robert Reffkin and Housing Rights Initiative executive director Aaron Carr (Getty Images, iStock/Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)
From left: Compass CEO Robert Reffkin and Housing Rights Initiative executive director Aaron Carr (Getty Images, iStock/Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)

A year after watchdog group Housing Rights Initiative sued Compass for discriminating against tenants using housing vouchers, the brokerage agreed to put money toward righting that wrong, promising bigger commissions to agents for Section 8 leases.

The incentive stems from a settlement the parties reached Wednesday.

Compass also agreed to add training so brokers would understand voucher programs and how to file paperwork. Plus, the brokerage said it would educate first-time homebuyers who are becoming landlords on tenants’ rights to use vouchers.

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HRI’s suit named 88 brokerages and landlords that dismissed callers who said they were looking to rent with subsidies. It is illegal to do that, but some landlords are known to not want voucher holders, leading brokers to assume they would be wasting their time by showing those apartments to such prospective tenants.

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The nonprofit watchdog’s founder and executive director, Aaron Carr, would not disclose how much more Compass brokers would be paid for leases involving Section 8 or other rent subsidies.

HRI said it has settled with several other firms. Some have agreed to post signs in their offices advertising that vouchers are welcome, and others have reserved apartments specifically for voucher holders.

The court-mandated commitments come as city agencies tasked with clamping down on source of income discrimination have struggled with budget cuts and staffing shortages, City Limits reported.

Carr said he is hopeful that the deal with Compass, the country’s largest brokerage, establishes a standard for the industry.

“This agreement sets an important precedent that will reverberate across the real estate sector and put pressure on other real estate companies to reform their discriminatory business practices,” he said in a statement.

Compass did not comment in time for publication.