NJ: Bergenfield Housing Complex Manager Broke Civil Rights Law Rejecting Apartment Applicant

The manager of a Bergenfield housing complex rejected a potential tenant who planned to pay rent with federal Section 8 housing assistance, violating New Jersey's civil rights law, state authorities charged.

Ivy Lane Apartments, Bergenfield
Ivy Lane Apartments, Bergenfield Photo Credit: Googlemaps

Tower Management Service – manager of the Ivy Lane Apartments in Bergenfield – “wrongfully rejected the would-be tenant for not meeting a minimum income requirement” by recognizing the federal contribution, state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said Tuesday.

The prospective tenant would have been responsible for covering no more than $386 of his overall monthly rent of $995, while the balance would have been paid by the federal Section 8 program, the attorney general said.

“Despite that fact, the man was informed that he failed to meet the minimum annual income requirement at Ivy Lanes of $33,000, which was applied in full even to applicants who planned to pay the rent with a Section 8 voucher,” he said.

The original complaint against Tower Management Service, which is headquartered in Rivers Edge, was filed in April 2010, Grewal said.

The state Division on Civil Rights (DCR) determined in December 2016, during then-Gov. Chris Christie’s administration, that there wasn’t probable cause to bring a complaint against Tower.

After Phil Murphy became governor, his administration appealed. A state appeals court sent the case back to the DCR for reconsideration, leading to a new determination supporting “a reasonable suspicion that New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) has been violated,” Grewal said.

The case against Tower was one of three that the attorney general announced Tuesday. The other cases -- in Union and Somerset counties – have been settled, he said.

“Landlords, property owners, and real estate agents too often discriminate against renters who seek to pay for housing using vouchers or other public assistance,” Grewal said. “Even worse, this kind of discrimination is common in neighborhoods with good schools, transportation, and jobs.”

Obtaining a Section 8 voucher is a difficult task, with waiting lists often years long, DCR Director Rachel Wainer Apter said.

“Finding a landlord willing to accept one can be even harder, even though under the Law Against Discrimination, landlords cannot refuse to accept Section 8 or other forms of rental assistance,” Apter said. “And minimum income requirements cannot be used as an end-run around the law.”

New Jersey law prohibits discrimination in housing based on the source of lawful income that a tenant would use to pay rent.

Landlords and property managers cannot refuse to rent units to potential tenants because they would pay with a Section 8 housing voucher or other public assistance, for example.

It is also illegal to advertise that applicants relying on Section 8 assistance will be rejected.

In one of the settlements, a former Somerset County resident has agreed to pay a woman $5,000 to resolve allegations that he reneged on considering her as a tenant after she sent him an e-mail asking if he accepted Section 8.

In the other, a Union County couple has agreed to pay a woman $2,500 to resolve allegations they unlawfully dismissed her as a prospective tenant because she indicated her intention to pay with Section 8.

Deputy Attorney General Megan Harris is handling the Tower Management case.

“As we work towards a stronger and fairer New Jersey, our Division on Civil Rights is focused on combating discriminatory practices that can entrench segregated housing patterns and deprive New Jersey residents of opportunities for a better life,” Grewal said.

Apter, the DCR director, agreed.

“Landlords and realtors should know that we take discrimination against tenants with Section 8 or other forms of rental assistance seriously.”

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