|HUD No. 13-106
July 15, 2013
HUD CHARGES NEW JERSEY LANDLORDS WITH REFUSING TO RENT TO AFRICAN AMERICANS
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has charged the owners of two apartment buildings in North Arlington, New Jersey, with violating the Fair Housing Act for allegedly denying rental opportunities to African Americans.
HUD's charge alleges that Michael Pontoriero, an owner of the buildings, refused to show apartments to or return the calls of a prospective tenant after learning that he is African American, and that Pontoriero repeated these and other discriminatory behaviors against African Americans in four separate tests conducted by the Fair Housing Council of Northern New Jersey (FHCNNJ).
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to rent or impose different rental terms or conditions on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status.
HUD brings this charge on behalf of the prospective tenant and FHCNNJ, a non-profit fair housing organization that receives funding from HUD to investigate claims of discrimination, after both filed complaints with the Department.
According to HUD's charge, an African-American man contacted Pontoriero to inquire about an apartment he saw listed for rent. Pontoriero initially scheduled a time to show him the apartment and confirmed the appointment minutes before, but failed to appear, allegedly after learning the man is African American. Believing that Pontoriero did not show him the unit because of his race, the man contacted FHCNNJ, which conducted four paired tests using a white tester and a black tester in each test. The tests revealed that Pontoriero refused to show up for appointments and return calls after he learned that a tester was African American. Pontoriero allegedly would drive by or arrive to the appointment early in order to discover a prospective renter's race. The charge alleges further that when he did show a unit to African-American testers, he did not accompany the tester room-to-room and point out the apartment's features or provide an application as he did with white testers, and he actively discouraged black testers from applying to rent the property. In addition, he allegedly quoted a black tester a monthly rent of $100 more for a one-bedroom unit than he quoted a white tester.
"Testing is a critical tool in exposing discriminatory treatment that might otherwise go undetected," said Bryan Greene, HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "HUD and its fair housing partners will continue to utilize trained testers to identify and end unlawful housing discrimination."
The HUD charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages to both the individual and FHCNNJ. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose fines in order to vindicate the public interest, or if the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may award punitive damages.
Persons who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed at www.hud.gov/fairhousing or by downloading HUD's free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
HUD's mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov. You can also follow HUD on twitter @HUDnews, on facebook at www.facebook.com/HUD, or sign up for news alerts on HUD's News Listserv.