Article

Judge Awards Attorneys’ Fees in HIV/AIDS Housing Discrimination Case

Federal District Court Judge Samuel Conti granted ECBA’s motion for attorneys’ fees in Short v. Manhattan Apts., et al., on June 10, 2013. The lawsuit, which alleged housing discrimination by Defendants Manhattan Apartments and Abba Realty culminated in a week-long bench trial in October 2012. The Court found that the defendants discriminated against prospective renters living with HIV/AIDS who received a housing subsidy from New York City’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration (“HASA”) and awarded damages to the individual plaintiff and the Fair Housing Justice Center (“FHJC”), which conducted corroborative testing. The decision in this case was the first to find discrimination against a HASA client under a 2008 New York City law which prohibits housing discrimination based on lawful source of income.

Judge Conti awarded $507,031.65 in fees and costs to Plaintiffs’ attorneys, noting the significance of the case and the broad injunctive relief awarded. The plaintiffs are represented by Diane L. Houk, of ECBA, along with co-counsel Armen Merjian and Robert Bacigalupi of Housing Works.

To read the decision, click here.

Article

ECBA Files Lawsuit Against Five Senior Living Residences Alleging Discrimination

ECBA, on behalf of the Fair Housing Justice Center (“FHJC”), filed a housing discrimination lawsuit in federal court against five senior independent living residences. The complaint alleges that the owners of The Esplanade Residences, on Staten Island, in Manhattan, in White Plains, and in Rockland County, discriminate against prospective and current residents based on disability, religion, and race. FHJC sent undercover testers who confirmed the allegedly discriminatory practices and policies, including refusing to rent to wheelchair users, restricting them to certain apartments, restricting the type of wheelchair permitted, and/or segregating residents who use wheelchairs in a separate dining room. One agent for the Manhattan Esplanade told a tester “you have to come in vertical.” The plaintiffs are represented by Diane L. Houk of ECBA and Kevin Cremin and Nahid Sorooshyari of MFY Legal Services.

To read the complaint, click here.

Article

ECBA Settles Racial Housing Discrimination Case Against Bronx Cooperative

Today, a federal judge approved a settlement agreement between the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and the Edgewater Park Owners Cooperative, Inc. (EPOC). The lawsuit, filed in February 2010, alleged that Edgewater Park and Silver Beach Gardens, two housing cooperatives in the Throggs Neck area of the Bronx, and a real estate broker were discriminating against African American prospective home buyers. The two communities, which together are comprised of 1,025 homes, required that prospective buyers provide three references from existing shareholders, a rule the complaint claimed discriminated against African Americans.

In addition to eliminating the three shareholder reference policy and requiring EPOC to abide by fair housing laws, the settlement agreement requires that the cooperative provide fair housing training for employees, prominently display fair housing posters, adopt a non-discrimination policy, and notify local brokers about the policy. Further, EPOC will purchase advertising space in Bronx newspapers marketing Edgewater Park as a “welcoming community” that invites “all home buyers to consider purchasing a home.” Finally, EPOC will pay $385,000 to the FHJC for damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.

The other cooperative in the case, Silver Beach Gardens, settled with the FHJC in May 2011 for similar injunctive relief and $115,000 in damages, fees, and costs. The defendant real estate broker also agreed to pay damages and surrendered her real estate license. The plaintiffs in the case were represented by ECBA’s Diane L. Houk, Adam Pulver, and Sam Shapiro.

Article

ECBA Files Lawsuit Alleging Source of Income and Disability Discrimination at Lefrak City

Today, ECBA and co-counsel Housing Works, Inc. filed a housing discrimination lawsuit in federal court on behalf of a woman living with AIDS and the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) against the Lefrak Organization, one of the nation’s largest landlords. The complaint alleges that Lefrak and one of its subsidiary companies discriminate on the basis of disability and source of income in the operation of the 5000-unit LeFrak City complex in Queens and other apartment buildings throughout New York City. Specifically, the complaint alleges that defendants operate physically separate and unequal rental offices, one for tenants who are employed and the other for tenants receiving government housing assistance, including New Yorkers living with AIDS and using a HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) rental subsidy. The FHJC sent undercover testers to Lefrak’s rental offices who confirmed the allegedly discriminatory practices and policies. The plaintiffs are represented by Diane L. Houk of ECBA and Armen H. Merjian of Housing Works, Inc.

To read the complaint, click here.

 

Article

New York Appellate Court Rules Rent Overcharge Case Brought on Behalf of Harlem Tenants Can Proceed as a Class Action

On April 25, 2013, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, First Department, ruled in favor of a group of Harlem tenants represented by ECBA, and held that their claims for rent overcharge can proceed as a class action. In Downing v. First Lenox Terrace Associates, the appellate court reversed the lower court, which had dismissed plaintiffs’ claims and directed them to proceed in housing court. Represented by ECBA attorneys Matthew Brinckerhoff and Adam Pulver, and co-counsel of Himmelstein McConnell Gribben Donoghue & Joseph, the plaintiffs allege that their landlord systematically, unlawfully treated their apartments as deregulated and not subject to the Rent Stabilization Law, despite their landlord’s receipt of special tax benefits which required them to do so. ECBA and Himmelstein McConnell represent classes and putative classes of tenants in several similar cases currently pending.

To read more about the Downing case, click  here and  here.

The court’s decision is available  here.

Article

ECBA Files Race Discrimination Lawsuit Against Owners of Multiple Brooklyn Apartment Buildings

Last week, ECBA filed a race discrimination lawsuit in federal district court against the owners and managers of multiple Brooklyn apartment buildings on behalf of the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and four African American testers. The FHJC conducted a testing investigation which the complaint alleges shows that in 2012 white testers were informed of and shown available apartments for rent, while African American testers were told that there were no apartments available. The plaintiffs are represented by ECBA’s Katherine Rosenfeld and Diane L. Houk.

Article

ECBA Settles with Final Defendant in Source of Income Discrimination Case

Today, a federal judge approved a settlement agreement between the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and Bond NY Properties in Cales v. New Castle Hill Realty, et al., a case brought against multiple real estate companies and agents alleging source of income discrimination. The lawsuit, based on testing conducted by the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) in 2008 and 2009, found that certain real estate companies discriminated against prospective renters on the basis of source of income. Real estate agents working for the defendants refused to show apartments to prospective tenants who had disabilities, were not working because of disabilities, received Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and/or had a New York City rental subsidy.

As part of the settlement, Bond agreed to adopt an anti-discrimination policy and to provide fair housing training to its employees. Bond also agreed to certain advertising practices and will modify its rental applications and policies to account for all sources of income. Bond was the sole remaining defendant in the case and with this final settlement agreement, the case is fully resolved. In total, the lawsuit resulted in damages and attorney’s fees of more than $550,000, as well as training and changes in policies by defendants. The FHJC was represented by ECBA’s Diane L. Houk, Elizabeth S. Saylor, and Debbie Greenberger.

To read more about the case, click  here.

Article

Disability Discrimination Case Against Long Island Landlord Settles

Today, a federal judge approved a settlement agreement in Long Island Housing Services, Inc. v. Main Street L.I., LLC and Bradford Mott, a case alleging that the owner of five Suffolk County apartment complexes discriminated against tenants and prospective tenants with disabilities. The testing investigation on which the Complaint is based allegedly found that renters with physical disabilities were discouraged from trying to rent at the apartments, provided false information about apartment availability, and quoted higher rents than renters without disabilities. Further, the lawsuit claims that Defendants illegally denied requests to modify to their policies to allow people with disabilities equal access to the apartments.

The settlement provides $136,000 for Long Island Housing Services (LIHS) for damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs, as well as broad injunctive relief. The agreement requires Defendants to adopt and distribute a reasonable accommodation policy and to arrange mandatory fair housing training for its staff. In addition, Defendants will reimburse pet fees, deposits, or transfer fees charged to tenants who required service or assistance animals or transfered to a different apartment because of a disability. The Plaintiff in the case, LIHS, is represented by ECBA’s Diane L. Houk, along with co-counsel Erik A. Heins, LIHS Staff Attorney.

To read the press release, click here.

Article

First Department Unanimously Allows Tenants’ Suit to Go Forward

A 5-judge panel of the Appellate Division, First Department, unanimously affirmed a lower court ruling allowing a claim brought on behalf of tenants of London Terrace Gardens, a Chelsea apartment complex, against their landlords to proceed. The case, Dugan v. London Terrace Gardens, N.Y. County Clerk No. 603468/09, concerns the improper deregulation of rent stabilized apartments in buildings participating in the City’s J-51 tax abatement program. The appellate court rejected the landlord’s argument that the State Department of Housing and Community Renewal, and not the courts, was the appropriate venue for the case. A motion for class certification is now pending in the lower court. The case was argued by ECBA associate Adam Pulver. ECBA partner Matthew Brinckerhoff and co-counsel Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph worked on the briefs and represent the plaintiffs in this ongoing litigation. ECBA is also counsel in four other cases brought on behalf of tenants in similar circumstances.

The court’s decision is available  here.

Article

Landlord and Superintendent of Large Queens Apartment Building Sued for Discriminating Against African Americans

The Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and three African-American testers filed a lawsuit today in federal court alleging that the landlord and superintendent of a large apartment building in a predominantly white area of Sunnyside, Queens discriminate on the basis of race. While white testers sent to the building were shown an available one-bedroom apartment, the African-American testers were told that there were no apartments available in the building. The superintendent, who refused to show the African-American testers any apartments in the building, told the white testers, “I chose the people…. You look like nice people, that’s why I show you.” The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief to stop the discrimination and ensure future compliance with fair housing laws. The FHJC and three African-American testers are represented by Elizabeth Saylor, Diane L. Houk, and Vasudha Talla of ECBA.

To read the complaint, click here. To read the press release, click here. To read the New York Times article on the case, click here.

.