African-American Woman Wins Fair Housing Case Settlement on Race and Source of Income Discrimination

When Sandra, who was living in a shelter, received a voucher from New York City’s Living in Communities (LINC) rental assistance program, she looked forward to having a real home again. But like many other homeless families, she found landlords were not willing to accept her LINC voucher.  The Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) conducted testing and found that Kosova Properties, which manages 19 buildings with more than 350 units in the Bronx and Manhattan, was discriminating against potential tenants based on race and source of income.

Sandra, represented by Mobilization for Justice, and three African-American testers and the FHJC, represented by Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, filed suit in federal court, alleging race and source of income discrimination, including that the landlord’s refusal to accept LINC vouchers has a disparate impact based on race. The case, filed in May 2016, settled on the eve of trial. Under the four-year settlement agreement, the landlord agrees not to discriminate; to adopt a fair housing policy; undergo fair housing training; allow tenants who live in the one building where the defendants allegedly steered African-American tenants to transfer to available units in other buildings the defendants own; and hire a third-party employee who will handle rental inquiries at all of the larger rental buildings operated by the defendants.  The settlement also includes a $620,000 monetary recovery.

MFJ Staff Attorney Shanila Ali, who handled the case, said: “No family should have to languish in the shelter system because of discrimination based on race or source of income. This settlement will send a strong message to landlords that fair housing is not a choice, it’s the law.”