September 30, 2004
HUD CHARGES NEW JERSEY LANDLORD AND EMPLOYEE WITH VIOLATIONS OF FAIR HOUSING ACT
Complex refused to lease an apartment to an Arab couple of the Muslim faith
WASHINGTON. - The Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced
it charged the Barron's Gate Construction Company, Inc., owner of the Barron's
Gate Apartments in Woodbridge, New Jersey, and one of its employees with violating
the Fair Housing Act for refusing to rent an apartment to a couple based on
their national origin (Arab and Egyptian) and religion (Muslim). The wife is
naturalized United States citizen and the husband is a legal resident of the
HUD's investigation showed that on September 15, 2001, while the Arab couple of the Muslim faith completed the Barron's Gate application form, the resident manager conducting the interview commented that his friend owned a weapons store in the area and told him that since September 11th, the shop owner had sold weapons to people who wanted to kill Arabs and Muslims. Despite being very distressed and upset about the encounter, the couple paid $100 for a credit check and completed the application process.
Several days later, the resident manager contacted the couple and informed them that their application had been rejected. The couple's offer was rejected allegedly because of their short credit and employment history. The couple made follow-up visits to the rental office in an attempt to rent the apartment. They also sent a follow-up letter, offering to pay the entire years' rent in advance, plus a security deposit. These offers were rejected.
The Housing Coalition of Central Jersey Inc., a fair housing advocacy group,
also tested the complex's application process by using a white female tester
with credentials similar to those of the couple seeking to rent. The tester
was assured by the individual in the rental office that her short credit history
would not be a problem. HUD identified tenants who had shorter employment histories
and worse credit than the Arab and Muslim couple.
"Being able to live where you want to without regard to your national origin and religion is one of the cornerstones of the Fair Housing Act." said Carolyn Peoples, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "This case should send a clear and unambigious message to any landlord who would discriminate against persons based on where they were born or their religious faith."
A hearing on the charges will be held by a U.S. Administrative Law Judge on
January 4, 2005, in the New York area, unless either the complainant or respondent
elect to have the case decided by a federal judge in U.S. District Court. An
election to go to district court must be made by October 18, 2004.
Housing discrimination charges heard before an ALJ carry a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 for a first offense in addition to actual damages for the complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorney fees. Sanctions can be more severe if the respondent has a history of housing discrimination. Should either party elect to go to federal district court, either party may request a jury trial. A district court may award the damages available in an administrative proceeding and may also award punitive damages.
In either forum, an Assistant United States Attorney or an attorney from the U.S. Department of Justice brings the case on behalf of the complainant. Each party has the right to be represented by his or her own attorney.
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet and espanol.hud.gov.
People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777. Additional information is available at www.usdoj.gov.