WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced that local real estate company Evolve, LLC will be required to pay a penalty of up to $250,000 to resolve a 2018 housing discrimination lawsuit. In February 2020, a judge granted the District’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that Evolve violated District law by refusing to rent or even show apartments to potential tenants who planned to use housing vouchers. After this victory for the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), Evolve agreed to resolve the lawsuit without further litigation by paying penalties and following anti-discrimination requirements. The consent judgement requires Evolve to pay a $250,000 civil penalty, communicate on all of its materials that it rents to housing voucher participants, and implement policies to comply with the District’s anti-discrimination laws and protect renters. Evolve employees must also go through anti-discrimination training.
“This victory reaffirms that landlords will face consequences for discriminating against vulnerable District residents who use housing assistance to pay their rent,” said AG Racine. “The Office of the Attorney General will enforce the District’s consumer protection and anti-discrimination laws to ensure landlords treat all tenants fairly, regardless of their source of income.”
Evolve is a real estate and property management company headquartered in the District. It offers multiple apartments for rent, including some in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
The District’s Human Rights Act (DCHRA) broadly outlaws discrimination based on traits including race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and disability. The law specifically prohibits housing discrimination based on source of income, meaning that landlords cannot refuse to rent to prospective tenants on the basis that they use vouchers to pay rent.
The District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) prohibits a wide variety of deceptive and unlawful businesses practices and protects consumers, including tenants. Under the CPPA, it is considered an unlawful trade practice to violate other laws in the context of a consumer transaction.
Housing Discrimination Lawsuit
In November 2018, OAG filed suit against Evolve after an investigation revealed that the company used a web-based scheduling system to automatically deny apartment showings to any prospective tenant that indicated they rely on housing vouchers to pay rent. In February 2020, the Court ruled in OAG’s favor, granting the District’s motion for summary judgment and declaring that Evolve’s refusal to deal with prospective tenants who were voucher recipients violated consumer protection law.
Under the terms of a consent judgment, Evolve will be required to:
- Pay up to $250,000 in penalties to the District: Evolve must pay a penalty of up to $250,000 to the District.
- Implement anti-discrimination training for employees: Evolve must conduct housing anti-discrimination training as well as a training on the DCHRA for all employees, principals, officers, directors, or contractors responsible for leasing rental property on behalf of Evolve.
- Update all advertisements, notices, and website material: Evolve must stop posting rental property advertisements that indicate they will not lease to housing voucher participants. Additionally, Evolve must include language affirmatively stating that it accepts voucher recipients on all of its advertisements, notices, and website properties that are used for leasing purposes.
- Stop all discriminatory business practices and implement anti-discrimination policies: Evolve must cease discrimination against District residents based on their source of income. It must implement and maintain written policies for employees about complying with D.C. law and not discriminating based on a person’s source of income.
A copy of the judgment is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-08/Evolve-Consent-Order.pdf
A copy of the summary judgment ruling is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-08/Evolve-Summary-Judgment.pdf
Report Housing Discrimination
District residents who believe that they have experienced housing discrimination, or any other type of discrimination, may report it to OAG’s Civil Rights Section by:
- Submitting a civil rights tip online
- Calling (202) 727-3400
- E-mailing OAGCivilRights@dc.gov
- Mailing OAG, ATTN: Civil Rights Section at 441 4th Street NW, Suite 600S, Washington, D.C. 20001
OAG’s civil rights work complements the work of the District’s Office of Human Rights (OHR), which is the primary District agency that investigates individual discrimination complaints. You can file a complaint with OHR at ohr.dc.gov/service/file-discrimination-complaint or call 202-727-4559.
Consumers, including renters, who have been the victims of unfair or deceptive trade practices can file a consumer complaint with OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection by calling 202-442-9828 or submitting a complaint online on our Consumer Protection Page.