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 Division on Civil Rights (DCR) has issued findings of probable cause in six cases and has issued consent decrees in another two 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 federal, state, or local 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 six cases involving the denial of rental housing in Atlantic, Bergen, Hunterdon, Sussex, and Union counties. The findings of probable cause indicate that DCR has concluded its preliminary investigation and determined there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion the LAD has been violated; the findings of probable cause are not a final adjudication of the case on the merits.
The two consent decrees were issued in cases involving alleged housing discrimination in Essex and Somerset counties. By the terms of the consent decrees, the parties have agreed to resolve the case, and the housing provider has agreed to comply with the LAD’s prohibition against source-of-income discrimination in housing, to receive training on its obligations as a housing provider under the LAD, to make a payment to DCR and to the individual complainant to resolve the complainant’s claims against the housing provider.
“Landlords who turn away potential renters who receive rental assistance are in violation of the LAD,” said Attorney General Platkin. “Such practices undermine lower-income New Jerseyans’ ability to secure adequate housing. With the enforcement actions announced today, we’re putting all landlords on notice that housing discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated.”
“Housing discrimination has no place in New Jersey. Our laws provide strong protections against housing discrimination, and we are committed to enforcing them and ensuring that all New Jersey residents have access to safe, affordable housing,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights. “The enforcement actions we are announcing today send a clear signal: We will not tolerate discrimination against housing applicants simply because they receive government rental assistance.”
The findings of probable cause announced today involve source-of-income discrimination allegations involving not only rental of single-family homes, but also larger rental properties.
In the Atlantic County, Bergen County, Hunterdon County, and Sussex County cases, 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) or other rental assistance programs. The Section 8 voucher program is funded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and provides assistance to low-income families, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities so that they can afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private housing market.
In the Atlantic County case, the complaint also alleged that an advertisement for a rental property posted on Craigslist included the words “NO SECTION 8.” The LAD prohibits housing providers from posting advertisements stating that recipients of Section 8 vouchers or other forms of rental assistance are ineligible to rent.
In the Union County case, the complaint alleged that the landlord denied a tenant’s lease renewal by refusing to provide documents that would allow the tenant to apply for Emergency Rental Assistance Payments (ERAP) through the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA). The ERAP program provides temporary rental assistance to low- and moderate-income households that suffered a substantial reduction in income or experienced a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The consent decrees announced today involve two cases in which landlords and property managers refused to rent to individuals due to the potential tenants’ use of rental assistance programs. Following a DCR investigation and the issuance of a finding of probable cause against the landlords and property managers, each landlord agreed to resolve the case through a consent decree. The consent decrees impose the following remedies:
- 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 for administrative costs related to DCR’s investigation; 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 both 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.