Newark, Jersey City brokerages, landlords hit with discrimination suit
Housing Rights Initiative accuses 26 of voucher refusal
A tenant watchdog group is at it again, suing dozens of brokerages and landlords over alleged voucher discrimination.
New York-based Housing Rights Initiative sued 26 landlords and brokers in Newark and Jersey City, the New Jersey Monitor reported. The complaint, filed this week in state Superior Court, accuses the parties of discriminating based on income.
The brokerages named in the complaint include national residential firms Keller Williams, RE/MAX, Weichert Realtors and Century 21.
HRI’s testers posed as apartment hunters seeking to rent a unit using a federal voucher. The accused allegedly rejected the undercover tester, using excuses from hitting voucher caps and not accepting vouchers at all to “looking for a traditional renter,” according to the complaint.
The watchdog group doesn’t typically seek financial penalties, instead on the hunt for accountability. Carr told the Monitor he hopes a judge requires landlords to set aside more units for voucher holders and keep track of voucher applicant data. He also wants an “enforcement monitor” established in the state.
New Jersey is trying to step up its enforcement of source-of-income discrimination, although penalties aren’t necessarily scaring many. The New Jersey attorney general’s office in February announced enforcement in eight cases without naming those who were being penalized. Only two of the eight required payments from the offending party.
Voucher discrimination is a common form of discrimination against tenants, sometimes serving as a proxy for racial or disability discrimination; tenants with vouchers are disproportionately people of color or people with disabilities.
In April, HRI filed a discrimination suit against a group of Long Island brokerages over their alleged dealings with renters using government-issued housing vouchers. In 2021, HRI filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination against voucher-holding renters by 88 brokers and landlords in New York City. That lawsuit was recently allowed to move forward by a federal judge.
— Holden Walter-Warner