VOUCHER HOLDERS STILL BEING TURNED AWAY BY PREVIOUSLY-SUED REAL ESTATE AGENCY
The Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced today that it has filed a source of income discrimination lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against Brooklyn Real Estate companies Zuz Realty Corp. and Zuz Realty Equities LLC (collectively “Zuz Realty”), and licensed real estate brokers David Nissanian and Rachel Aviv.
In June 2021, FHJC was contacted by a woman who reported that Zuz Realty’s agents had stopped communicating with her about an available apartment after learning that she would be using a CityFHEPS voucher. She had been searching for more than a year for an apartment for herself and her two children, and her voucher would cover the entire rent amount for the apartment listed by Zuz Realty.
FHJC was already familiar with Zuz Realty, having conducted a prior investigation that served as evidence in a lawsuit filed against Zuz Realty Corp. in 2014. This undercover investigation had revealed substantially similar unlawful treatment of prospective tenants with vouchers.
Based on the 2021 complaint, FHJC conducted a new investigation. FHJC testers who posed as prospective tenants who derive their income solely from employment were treated in a friendly, enthusiastic, and solicitous manner. They were sent videos of available apartments end encouraged to visit available apartments in person.
By contrast, testers who stated that their rent would be paid using subsidies from government programs were met with indifference, lied to about availability, and completely ignored, despite repeated phone calls, voicemails, and text messages.
“Obtaining a rental voucher is extremely difficult. In New York’s expensive housing market, finding a suitable apartment with a rent low enough to be covered by a voucher is nearly impossible,” stated FHJC Executive Director Elizabeth Grossman. “People who have already cleared those significant hurdles deserve not to be disrespected, lied to, or ‘ghosted.’ They deserve the same access to housing opportunities as all other qualified renters. That’s the law.”
FHJC Legal Coordinator Madhulika Murali added, “To engage in this blatant, harmful discrimination after already having been sued for the same behavior is truly egregious. Zuz Realty and its agents will be held to account for their discrimination.”
The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages along with injunctive relief to put a stop to Zuz Realty’s discriminatory practices once and for all.
FHJC is represented by Mariann Wang and Alice Reiter with the law firm Cuti Hecker Wang LLP.
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).
The mission of 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.