Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division on Civil Rights announced today that a New Jersey landlord must pay a single mother $28,000 to resolve allegations he unlawfully evicted the woman after she sought to pay her rent with a State-issued housing assistance voucher for families displaced by Superstorm Sandy.
Under terms of a settlement reached between the parties -- Ocean County rental property owner Raymond McCann and former tenant Joy Fender – McCann also must adopt a specific non-discrimination policy that makes clear he will accept rental payment in the form of government-issued housing assistance vouchers.
Officials say McCann evicted Fender and her three children from the house they were renting from him in Seaside Heights in November 2015. Fender claimed the eviction came one month after she showed McCann her State-issued housing assistance voucher -- issued by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs -- and asked him to fill out the landlord’s portion of the related paperwork so she could submit it for processing.
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination prohibits housing discrimination based on a “source of lawful income used for rental or mortgage payments.”
“Families who pay for their housing with the help of government assistance have a right to live where they choose -- and to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Attorney General Grewal. ”We will hold accountable anyone who denies them this basic right. This settlement resolves troubling allegations and, going forward, should serve as a message to landlords, real estate agents and others involved in the housing industry.”
“State law makes it unlawful to refuse to rent property to someone simply because he or she receives rental assistance. Such behavior is viewed no differently than rejecting a prospective tenant based on race, sexual orientation or religion,” said Division Director Craig T. Sashihara. “New Jerseyans who were displaced by Superstorm Sandy have suffered enough without the added stress and uncertainty of being denied a home in which to raise their children, simply because they’re forced to temporarily rely on a Sandy voucher to help make ends meet.”
According to authorities, McCann owns a single-family home in Seaside Heights, which he uses as a rental property. In April 2014 Fender signed a one-year lease with McCann and, in May 2014, moved into the dwelling with her family.
Officials say in May 2015 – only weeks after renewing her lease – Fender received a letter from the Department of Community Affairs advising that her name had been selected from a lottery of eligible persons to submit an application for Sandy Tenant-Based Rental Assistance.
According to authorities, Fender told the Division on Civil Rights she immediately notified McCann about the letter, and he encouraged her to pursue the voucher.
Fender was subsequently awarded the voucher and, she told a Division investigator, she presented paperwork for McCann to fill out the same day. According to Fender, McCann refused to complete the paperwork without explanation, and in September 2015 began an eviction action against her for non-payment of rent. McCann denied all allegations of wrongdoing. He told the Division investigator that Fender never mentioned a Sandy voucher until after he initiated the eviction proceeding.
However, on November 21, 2015, Fender and her children were evicted. They stayed in a hotel until December 2015, when they moved into a single-family home where the landlord accepted Fender’s Sandy voucher.
Under terms of the settlement announced today, McCann admits no wrongdoing or liability. The landlord must create a written non-discrimination policy that clearly states his readiness to accept rental assistance vouchers as payment, and provide a copy to the Division on Civil Rights, as well as to all current and future tenants. McCann also must consent to efforts by Fender to clear court records of the eviction action taken against her, and must cooperate with any measures Fender takes to have credit reporting, tenancy and background agency records cleared of the eviction information as well.