New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination Bars Landlords from Discriminating Against Potential Tenants Based on Their Receipt of Government Rental Assistance
TRENTON — Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced today that the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) has issued findings of probable cause in four cases and has resolved an additional four cases, all of which involve alleged violations of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination’s prohibition against housing discrimination based on source of lawful income.
All eight cases involve allegations that individuals seeking rental housing were denied the opportunity to rent because they were receiving rental assistance. Under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD), landlords cannot refuse to rent to potential tenants or discourage them from renting because they receive government rental assistance.
The findings of probable cause were issued in four cases involving the denial of rental housing in Atlantic, Camden, and Hudson counties. A finding of probable cause indicates that DCR has concluded its preliminary investigation and determined there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion the LAD has been violated. Findings of probable cause do not represent final adjudications of the cases on the merits. Following a final adjudication on the merits by the Superior Court or by the Office of Administrative Law, a respondent found conclusively to violate the LAD may be required to pay a penalty of up to $10,000 per violation for their first adjudicated violation, and up to $50,000 per violation if they commit multiple adjudicated violations within a five-year period. Following a final adjudication on the merits, a respondent found conclusively to violate the LAD may be required to pay a penalty of up to $10,000 per violation for their first adjudicated violation, and up to $50,000 per violation if they commit multiple adjudicated violations within a five-year period.
The four resolved cases also involved allegations that housing providers in Atlantic and Middlesex counties discriminated against recipients of government rental assistance. Under the settlement agreements and consent decrees announced today, the housing provider has agreed to comply with the LAD’s prohibition against source-of-income discrimination in housing, to receive training on its obligation as a housing provider under the LAD, and to make a payment to the individual complainant to resolve the complainant’s claims.
“In New Jersey, the law protects the right to affordable housing,” said Attorney General Platkin. “We will hold accountable anyone who undermines New Jerseyans’ ability to secure housing. The enforcement actions announced today demonstrate our unwavering commitment to protecting our residents’ rights.”
“No one in New Jersey can be denied housing because they are using a housing voucher or other form of government rental assistance,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights. “With the enforcement actions announced today, we remain dedicated to enforcing the strong protections against housing discrimination our laws provide.”
In the four cases in which DCR issued findings of probable cause, the complaints alleged that landlords refused to rent to applicants due to the applicants’ intent to pay part of their rent through the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program (Section 8). Funded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Section 8 voucher program provides assistance to low-income families, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities so they can afford housing.
In one case, in response to an inquiry from a prospective renter who wished to use a Section 8 voucher, a landlord in Galloway Township texted the prospective renter that she did not “participate in any programs” like Section 8. In another case, a renter in Camden County executed a lease agreement and was subsequently issued a Section 8 voucher, but the real estate agency that managed the property told the renter that the “voucher would not be accepted.”
In the Hudson County case, a prospective renter in Hoboken told the real estate agency that he planned to use a Section 8 voucher. The agent responded by indicating that she would discuss it with the owners of the unit. Following that conversation, the agent informed the prospective renter that the unit would “not work” for him. When the prospective renter asked the agent whether the denial had anything to do with the Section 8 voucher, the agent did not respond and provided no further assistance to the prospective renter.
The four resolutions announced today, meanwhile, involve allegations of housing discrimination against housing providers in Atlantic and Middlesex counties. Three of the cases were resolved via negotiated settlement agreements (NSA) prior to the conclusion of DCR’s investigation. By the terms of the NSAs, the parties have agreed to resolve the case, and the housing providers have agreed to comply with the LAD’s prohibition against source-of-income discrimination in housing, to receive training on their obligations as housing providers under the LAD, and to make payments to the individual complainants to resolve the respective complainants’ claims against the housing providers.
A fourth case of alleged housing discrimination was resolved via a consent decree. Following a DCR investigation and the issuance of a finding of probable cause against the landlord and property manager, the landlord agreed to the following remedies imposed under the consent decree:
- All future decisions regarding housing must comply with the LAD and New Jersey’s Fair Chance in Housing Act, which generally prohibits housing discrimination based on an applicant’s prior criminal history;
- The housing provider must receive training regarding their obligations as housing providers under the LAD;
- The housing provider must make a payment to DCR; and
- The housing provider must make a payment to the individual who filed the complaint in settlement of the claims brought by the complainant.
In all four matters, the housing provider does not admit liability for violating the LAD.
The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights enforces the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, the New Jersey Family Leave Act, and the Fair Chance in Housing Act, and works to prevent, eliminate, and remedy discrimination and bias-based harassment in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation throughout New Jersey.
To find out more information, go to www.njcivilrights.gov.