The real estate company that manages a Bergenfield housing complex has agreed to pay $30,000 to an applicant who was denied an apartment because he planned to pay a portion of his rent with federal housing assistance, state authorities said.
Tower Management Service – manager of the 237-unit Ivy Lane Apartments in Bergenfield – also has agreed to “significant policy changes” at all 18 of its apartment communities to prevent non-discrimination, particularly against applicants looking to cover their rent with Section 8 assistance, state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said.
Tower agreed to the deal after state authorities accused the River Edge-based company of violating New Jersey’s anti-discrimination in housing law when it rejected the tenant for not meeting a minimum income requirement, Grewal said.
Under the law, 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.
“Too often, those who seek to pay rent using government assistance are turned away for no reason other than bias-driven stereotypes,” Grewal said. “Even worse, this kind of discrimination is common in neighborhoods with good schools, transportation, and jobs.
“Individuals and families who rely on Section 8 housing assistance have just as much right to safe and affordable housing as anyone else.”
Section 8 is a federally funded voucher program designed to provide rental assistance to low-income families, the elderly and the disabled.
Participants receive housing choice vouchers and then find their own available rental housing in the private market -- typically paying 30-40% percent of their monthly income toward the rent. Section 8 covers the balance.
The prospective Ivy Lane tenant would have been responsible for covering no more than $386 of his overall monthly rent of $995, with Section 8 handling the rest, the attorney general said.
“Despite that fact, the man was informed that he failed to meet the minimum annual income requirement at Ivy Lane of $33,000, which was applied in full even to applicants who planned to pay the rent with a Section 8 voucher,” Grewal said.
SEE: NJ Says Bergenfield Housing Complex Manager Broke Civil Rights Law Rejecting Apartment Applicant
Obtaining a Section 8 voucher is a difficult task, with waiting lists often years long.
“In order to be eligible for Section 8, a person generally must have a very low income, so applying a minimum income requirement to them without regard to the portion of the monthly rent they will actually be required to pay defeats the purpose of Section 8 and could lead to widespread discrimination,” New Jersey Division of Civil Rights Director Rachel Wainer Apter said.
“Minimum income requirements cannot be used as an end-run around the law,” Apter said.
As part of the settlement, Tower Management agreed that it will produce a written policy emphasizing that it accepts rental assistance, including Section 8 vouchers, Temporary Rental Assistance (TRA) and COVID-19 rental assistance.
It will also state that Tower Management “will not categorically reject an applicant because of a landlord-tenant action that did not result in eviction, will not consider in its evaluation of an applicant any eviction judgment more than four calendar years old, and will consider applicants who seek to use rental assistance who would otherwise be considered to have insufficient credit,” Grewal said.
The company also will train its property managers and leasing agents on its new non-discrimination policy, with “particular focus” on compliance with the state Law Against Discrimination and “ensuring that all tenancy decisions are made in a non-discriminatory manner,” the attorney general said.
The training will include a component dedicated to the consideration of applicants seeking to use rental assistance, including Section 8 vouchers, he said.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.