Opening Acts: August 17, 2020

Photo © by Bernard Kleina

August 18, 2020

Settlement Reached in Source-of-Income Discrimination Lawsuit


On August 14, a settlement was reached in a housing discrimination lawsuit brought against 165 Sherman Avenue, L.L.C., PMG Real Estate Corp. and real estate broker Pablo M. Garcia. The suit was filed in 2018 by Mr. Campbell, a client of the New York City HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA), who was the recipient of a public rental subsidy for people living with HIV/AIDS.  The suit claims the defendants refused to do business with the plaintiff after he revealed that he would be using his HASA subsidy to pay his rent.

The Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC), utilizing trained “testers,” conducted an investigation that corroborated the plaintiff’s account of this discrimination.  FHJC testers were told plainly that the landlords do not accept applicants with a HASA subsidy, and were advised to look for a real estate agent in the Bronx instead of Manhattan.

 “When they told me they don’t work with programs, I felt defeated, lost,” Campbell stated at the time the lawsuit was filed. “It really hurts your self-esteem when you have a government program to help you and they still tell you they won’t work with you.” 

While the defendants deny liability, they agreed to pay $207,500 to resolve the case and implement activities that will ensure future compliance with fair housing laws including, but not limited to:

  • Refraining from discrimination on the basis of lawful source of income
  • Adopting an equal housing opportunity policy for all company principals, employees and agents
  • Including fair housing logos and language in all websites, application forms, and advertising materials
  • Modifying application documents and other rental criteria to indicate the acceptance of all rental vouchers and subsidies
  • Fair housing training for all employees, agents, and brokers who regularly deal with potential tenants

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated: “This agreement sends an unambiguous message to landlords, management companies, and real estate brokers that it is not only illegal and immoral to discriminate against renters based on their use of a public subsidy, but it can be costly as well.” Freiberg added, “It is illegal in New York City and throughout the State of New York to discriminate in housing based on source of income.  The FHJC fully intends to see that these laws are vigorously enforced and the fair housing rights of tenants with rental subsidies are scrupulously protected.”  

The agreement was so-ordered by New York County Supreme Court Judge Hon. Arthur F. Engoron. The plaintiff was represented by Armen H. Merjian, Sina Choi and Elena Rodriguez of Housing Works and Kevin M. Cremin, Caroline Chen, Donna Chiu, and Ariana Marmora of Mobilization for Justice, Inc. (MFJ).

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.

FHJC’s investigation in this case was supported with funding from a Private Enforcement Initiative (PEI) grant received from the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).