Owner Not Liable for Housing Discrimination
Facts: A resident filed a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) against the owner for housing discrimination based on her race and her disabilities. She claimed that the management company treated her differently in the way it calculated a one-time subsidy for utility payments. She received a one-time annual utility credit in the amount of $225 from Life Line Credit Program of the State of New Jersey. The management company counted this subsidy toward her applicable annual income when calculating her monthly rental payment. She claimed that this subsidy, according to HUD regulations, is exempt from being included in a tenant’s income. She also alleged that the site staff interrogates and harasses her guests and that non-black residents’ visitors aren’t treated in the same manner.
The DCR assigned an investigator to investigate her claims. The report confirmed that the subsidy was to be included in the calculation of income. The investigator also interviewed the site manager, who explained that the unit has 24-hour security and all visitors are required to sign in at the front desk. Residents also have to meet their visitors at the front desk if the visitors arrive after 10 p.m. To verify the manager’s statements, the investigator interviewed 10 residents—seven African American, two Caucasian, and one Hispanic. And the residents verified the sign-in policy the site manager described.
Lastly, the report stated that the resident never made a request to the owner for reasonable accommodations for any disability. The investigator reviewed the management’s files, which verified that the site had made accommodations for numerous residents. And the building contained 13 fully accessible units. Upon completing the investigation, the investigator gave the resident the report, along with an opportunity to rebut it. She provided no additional relevant evidence or information, and the investigator recommended that the case be closed with a finding of no probable cause to substantiate the allegations in the complaint. The resident appealed the DCR’s decision.
Ruling: A New Jersey appeals court upheld the DCR’s conclusion.
Reasoning: The court concluded that there was no basis to overturn the agency’s decision, and that the agency’s decision wasn’t arbitrary or unreasonable. The resident made many accusations against the owner, but her accusations were unsupported by evidence in the record. On the other hand, the DCR’s determination was supported by sufficient credible evidence.
- Fennie v. New Brunswick UAW Housing Corp., March 2013