Division Announces Findings of Probable Cause in 14 Cases of Alleged Housing Discrimination, Including 8 Cases Filed by Non-Profit Watchdog Housing Rights Initiative
TRENTON – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) announced today that DCR has issued Findings of Probable Cause in 14 cases alleging violations of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination’s (LAD) prohibition against denying housing opportunity because of a lawful source of income such as government rental assistance. Eight of the cases were the result of complaints filed with DCR by Housing Rights Initiative (HRI), a non-profit housing watchdog group that conducts tests to detect housing discrimination.
In the enforcement actions announced today, DCR found probable cause to conclude that 22 respondents across New Jersey – including thirteen property owners and nine different real estate agencies – violated the LAD by denying individuals seeking rental housing the opportunity to rent based on their receipt of government rental assistance. Under the LAD, landlords cannot refuse to rent to potential tenants or discourage them from renting because they receive government rental assistance.
In the eight complaints filed with DCR by Housing Rights Initiative (HRI), testers employed by HRI called real estate companies, brokers, and property owners in New Jersey, disclosing during the phone calls that they would use Section 8 housing vouchers to pay rent. The real estate companies, brokers, and property owners rejected these callers, telling them that they would not accept vouchers. HRI’s phone calls with the companies, brokers, and property owners, which were recorded, provide direct evidence of discrimination. DCR issued eight Findings of Probable Cause in cases filed with DCR by HRI.
“Access to quality and affordable housing is a fundamental right, and New Jersey’s civil rights laws protect our residents’ right to use government rental assistance to obtain housing,” said Attorney General Platkin. “The enforcement actions announced today show that we remain committed to holding accountable anyone we find discriminating against potential tenants seeking a safe and affordable place to call home.”
“Tackling housing discrimination is a core priority for our office in 2024. The enforcement actions announced today mark just the beginning of our efforts this year to enforce the strong protections our civil rights laws provide against housing discrimination,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights. “We are grateful for the work of organizations like Housing Rights Initiative to uncover discrimination across our state, and we will continue to prioritize enforcement actions to hold housing providers, management companies, real estate agencies, lenders, appraisers, and others in the housing industry accountable when they violate our civil rights laws.”
In the eight matters filed with DCR by HRI, the respondents include four real estate agencies: Keller Williams City Life Realty, Liberty Realty, Marshall Realty LLC, and Norkez Properties, LLC. The matters also involve housing providers in Bergen, Essex, and Hudson counties, including in Jersey City, Newark, North Bergen, and Rutherford.
In addition to the complaints filed with DCR by HRI, complaints filed by individual members of the public resulted in an additional six Findings of Probable Cause against real estate agencies alleged to have engaged in source-of-income discrimination. The properties in these cases are located in Atlantic, Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, and Union counties. Two of the Findings of Probable Cause involved complaints against BHHS Fox and Roach. Findings of Probable Cause were also issued in complaints alleging discrimination by Century 21 Gemini Realty, Hudson Property Brokers, Re/Max, and Signature Realty.
Under the LAD, housing providers cannot refuse to rent to potential tenants or discourage them from renting because they receive government rental assistance. A finding of probable cause is not a final adjudication on the merits of a case; it means DCR has concluded its preliminary investigation and determined there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion the LAD has been violated.
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 or to file a complaint, go to www.njcivilrights.gov.