HUD, NEW JERSEY APARTMENT OWNERS SETTLE CLAIM ALLEGING DISCRIMINATION
AGAINST AFRICAN AMERICANS
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that the owners of two apartment buildings in North Arlington, NJ, will pay $21,000 under an Initial Decision and Consent Order resolving allegations that the owners violated the Fair Housing Act by denying rental opportunities to prospective African-American tenants.
Earlier this year, HUD charged Michael Pontoriero, one of the buildings’ owners, with violating the Fair Housing Act for refusing to show apartments to or return the calls of a prospective tenant after learning that he is African American. The charge further alleged that Pontoriero repeated the discriminatory behaviors in fair housing tests that were conducted by the Fair Housing Council of Northern New Jersey (FHCNNJ), a non-profit fair housing organization that receives funding from HUD to investigate claims of discrimination.
“Fair housing testing—where people of different backgrounds pose as applicants for housing—remains our most effective tool for exposing illegal housing discrimination that still too often occurs in this country,” stated Bryan Greene, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue to take enforcement action against individuals and housing providers who violate the Fair Housing Act.”
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.
The settlement HUD announces today stems from a charge HUD filed in June 2013 on behalf of an African-American man and FHCNNJ. HUD’s charge alleged that the man, when searching for housing, contacted Pontoriero to inquire about an apartment for rent. According to the charge, Pontoriero made an appointment to show the man the apartment, confirmed the appointment minutes before, and then failed to keep the appointment after learning the man’s race. Believing that he had been the victim of illegal discrimination, the man contacted FHCNNJ, which conducted four paired tests using a white tester and a black tester in each test.
The charge alleged that 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 for apartment viewing appointments early in order to discover a prospective renter’s race.
Under the terms of the Initial Decision and Consent Order, the apartment owners will pay $10,000 to the African-American man and $5,000 to the Fair Housing Council of Northern New Jersey for damages arising out of the alleged discrimination. The owners must also pay a $6,000 civil penalty. Additionally, the owners and their employees must complete fair housing training and implement a non-discrimination policy.
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/fairhousingor 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 http://espanol.hud.gov. You can also follow HUD on twitter @HUDgov, on facebook at www.facebook.com/HUD, or sign up for news alerts on HUD's Email List.