Opening Acts: September 5, 2019

Photo © by Bernard Kleina

September 5, 2019

FHJC Settles Race Discrimination Case


Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced the settlement of a fair housing lawsuit against Charm Equities LTD; its principal officers Howard and Michael Kohn; building superintendent Michael D’Antonio; and owner-entities Highway Realty LLC; and 1723 E 15 LLC. The federal lawsuit, filed in September 2018 by the FHJC and five African American testers, alleged that the defendants racially discriminated against African American prospective renters in violation of federal, state, and local fair housing laws.
The lawsuit stemmed from a 2-year undercover investigation during which white and African American testers posed as prospective renters and visited two Brooklyn apartment building located at 2410 Kings Highway and 1723 E. 15th Street. The white testers were repeatedly shown available units and encouraged to apply, while the African American testers were routinely told that no apartments were available for rent.
While the settlement does not include any admission of wrongdoing, the defendants agreed to pay monetary relief totaling $272,000, comply with fair housing laws, and implement activities that will ensure future compliance including, but not limited to:
  • Adopting an equal housing opportunity policy for all company principals, employees and agents;
  • Including fair housing logos and language in all rental ads and application forms, and displaying the HUD fair housing poster in offices and apartment lobbies;
  • Placing an ad on prominent real estate websites for every unit that becomes available, and not selecting a tenant until the ad has been posted for at least three days;
  • Charging a reasonable application fee to prospective renters, but no broker fee;
  • Maintaining certain rental records for inspection by the FHJC for the duration of the three (3) year agreement; and
  • Fair housing training by the FHJC for employees, agents, and owners directly involved in the renting and/or managing of apartments.
The agreement was so-ordered by United States District Judge Hon.Allyne Ross. The plaintiffs were represented by Mariann Meier Wang and Heather Gregorio with the law firm of Cuti Hecker Wang LLP.
FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “Our hope is that the injunctive relief obtained will change the practices of these rental housing providers. Going forward, the FHJC will monitor the defendants to ensure future compliance with fair housing laws.” Freiberg added, “We will continue to conduct proactive testing investigations to document and challenge racially discriminatory housing practices that persist throughout the New York City region.”