In addition to paying Shakisha Wallace $500 per month for 10 months, attorney Scott Kelly and his company, 374 Sairs Avenue LLC, will be subject under a settlement agreement to monitoring by the Division for two years to ensure compliance with fair housing laws.
Under the agreement, Kelly also must attend a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) class focused on the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). The CLE course must include a module on fair housing laws that is approved by the Division.
Going forward, Kelly and 374 Sairs Avenue, LLC also must keep a detailed record of all prospective tenants who complete applications for rental housing, including their names and contact information, the type of rental unit they sought, whether they were offered an opportunity to rent, and the reason for any applicant rejection.
“This settlement represents a fair resolution to a troubling matter,” said Acting Attorney General Lougy. “The search for safe, affordable housing that meets all of one’s daily needs can be difficult enough without the added obstacle of unlawful discrimination. Hopefully, this case will serve as a message to other landlords that it’s illegal to refuse public housing assistance vouchers, and that we will hold accountable any landlord who engages in such conduct.”
“Landlords cannot reject otherwise qualified, hard working families who are looking for safe, clean housing and can pay their rent simply because they rely on rent subsidies to make ends meet,” said Division Director Craig T. Sashihara. “Under New Jersey law, that behavior is no different than rejecting a qualified tenant based solely on his or her race, sexual orientation or religion.”
The Section 8 housing voucher program is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and administered by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. It provides financial assistance to eligible persons for the rental of privately-owned housing.
Generally, Section 8 tenants pay no more than 30 percent of their household income toward the monthly rent. The agency administering the Section 8 funds enters into a separate Housing Assistance Payment contract with property owners, under which the agency agrees to pay the balance of the fair market rent established by HUD.
Monmouth County resident Shakisha Wallace saw an apartment rental in Long Branch advertised on Craigslist.com in February 2012 and subsequently called the telephone number. Wallace said the woman who answered explained that the landlord didn’t accept Section 8 housing vouchers. A few days later, Wallace told Division investigators, she spoke directly with Kelly and he advised that he once accepted Section 8 vouchers, but no longer did.
Kelly told Division investigators he did not recall speaking with Wallace about the apartment rental. However, he confirmed his refusal to accept Section 8 vouchers, claiming it was the result of a difficult experience he’d had with a prior tenant who paid with Section 8 assistance.
Under terms of the agreement announced today, failure by Kelly and/or 374 Sairs Avenue, LLC to comply with any aspect of the settlement will result in reinstatement of a $5,000 civil penalty that is presently suspended.
Investigator Adriana Tovar and Deputy Attorney General Beverley Lapsley handled the matter on behalf of the State.