FHJC ACHIEVES SETTLEMENT IN ANOTHER SOURCE OF INCOME LAWSUIT
Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced that a settlement has been reached with five of the nine defendants in a lawsuit filed by the FHJC and co-plaintiff Naomi Henderson. The lawsuit alleged source of income discrimination at the Brooklyn properties Beach Haven Apartments, located at 9-49 Murdock Court and 2662 West 2nd Street, and Theda Gardens, located at 1402 West 4th Street.
FHJC and Ms. Henderson have settled with the defendants associated with Beach Haven Apartments: Beach Haven owners Beach Haven Apartments Associates LLC, Rubin Schron, and Herb Dumain, property managers Apartment Management Associates LLC d/b/a Revona Properties, and Revona employee Jimit Shah (the “Beach Haven Defendants”). The case will continue against the defendants associated with Theda Gardens: owners 1402 Owners Corp. and David Spira, real estate company ERN Group Inc. d/b/a Ern Flats, and real estate agent Simi Fishof.
Initially filed in August, 2022, the complaint stemmed from an extensive investigation conducted by the FHJC after being contacted by a real estate agent on behalf of Ms. Henderson, a 67-year-old New Yorker and notable life-long activist, who was living in a homeless shelter and who was struggling to find an apartment using her CityFHEPS voucher. The FHJC investigation found that Defendants treated potential applicants who stated they would be paying their rent with income derived from employment positively, giving them warm and encouraging responses, while voucher-holding applicants were routinely ghosted, as Ms. Henderson and her agent had been. The full Amended Complaint can be read HERE.
While denying the allegations, the Beach Haven Defendants agreed to collectively pay $350,000 in damages and have offered Ms. Henderson a one-bedroom apartment at Beach Haven using her current voucher.
Defendants will also participate in extensive injunctive relief, including:
- Refraining from source of income discrimination
- Applying non-discriminatory policies, procedures, and rules to all rental applicants
- Adopting an equal housing opportunity policy for any and all owners, members, partners, executives, employees, agents, or other persons involved in showing or providing information about apartments
- Publicly advertising available Beach Haven apartments on Craigslist and Streeteasy before directly informing any prospective applicants or real estate agents
- Including the phrase “Equal Housing Opportunity – all sources of income welcome, including government vouchers such as Section 8 and CityFHEPS” in a large font on Craigslist and Streeteasy ads
- Requiring fair housing training for the owners and their employees and agents involved in fielding inquiries about, showing, and renting apartments in Beach Haven Apartments, as well as employees who supervise such persons in other Revona owned or managed buildings.
- Working with applicants to allow any applicable fees or deposits to be covered by their voucher program and/or government assistance.
- Placing a letter of discipline in Defendant Shah’s record warning him of suspension or termination for future violations
- Placing prominent HUD fair housing signage at Beach Haven, along with signage directing all apartment inquiries to the email address and phone number for Beach Haven’s leasing office
- Including a fair housing logo and/or language on all apartment advertisements and on all print materials given to prospective rental applicants.
The settlement was so-ordered by Kings County Supreme Court Judge Peter P. Sweeney on November 29, 2023. The full settlement can be read HERE.
“After three years being homeless, it took the power of this lawsuit to get me out of the shelters and into an apartment that I could and should have had back in April 2022 – in one of the buildings I loved,” said plaintiff Naomi Henderson. “I have my life back. With a real home of my own, I can cook my own food, keep my own hours, and do my creative and healing work. I am so grateful to FHJC and the team of ‘wonder women’ working on my case,” she added.
“Defendants’ source of income discrimination prolonged Ms. Henderson’s time in NYC shelters. This lawsuit gave her the dignity of decent, safe and secure permanent housing, along with the oversight and remedial measures so that what happened to her doesn’t happen to others,” added Attorney Deborah H. Karpatkin, who represents Ms. Henderson.
“Too many New York landlords and agents still believe that it’s cheaper and easier to ignore voucher holders than it is to work with them to find the safe and decent housing that they have already qualified for,” stated FHJC Legal Coordinator Madhulika Murali. “This settlement should make them reconsider whether they want to continue violating the law.”
Attorneys Mariann Wang and Heather Gregorio with the law firm Cuti Hecker Wang LLP represent the FHJC in this lawsuit. “We are hopeful that by achieving significant and broad relief, this settlement will be another step toward creating a city where individuals and families with vouchers have access to the housing they need and deserve,” Ms. Gregorio stated.
The mission of the FHJC, a nonprofit civil rights organization, is to eliminate housing discrimination; promote policies and programs that foster open, accessible, and inclusive communities; and strengthen enforcement of fair housing laws in the New York City region.