AG Racine Announces Real Estate Company to Pay $900K for Discriminating Against Low-Income District Renters

Largest OAG Civil Rights Settlement Resolves Lawsuit Against Curtis Investment Group for Refusing to Rent to Housing Voucher Recipients

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced today that Curtis Investment Group, Inc., a large local real estate company, will be required to pay $900,000 to the District to resolve a 2019 housing discrimination lawsuit. The settlement with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) resolves allegations that Curtis and several related corporate entities – Curtis Properties Inc., Curtis Property Management Inc., and Oxon Run Manor LLC – refused to accept housing vouchers and other forms of assistance from prospective tenants and posted discriminatory housing advertisements online. Under District law, it is illegal for landlords to discriminate against people who use housing assistance to pay all or part of their rent. This settlement represents the largest recovery to date in a civil rights case brought by OAG and among the largest source of income discrimination settlements in the District. 

“District of Columbia law has long prohibited landlords from denying would-be tenants the right to use vouchers or other subsidies to pay their rent,” said AG Racine. “The Office of the Attorney General will not tolerate illegal conduct that discriminates against our most vulnerable residents. Real estate companies are now on notice that discriminating against tenants on the basis of how they pay their rent is illegal. If they violate the law, we will seek to impose serious fines and penalties.”

Curtis Investment Group, Inc. is a real estate and property management company based in Maryland. Curtis Investment Group and related entities, including Curtis Properties Inc., Curtis Property Management Inc., and Oxon Run Manor LLC., own and manage several residential properties in the District. These include more than 240 units across four apartment complexes in the District: Camelot Square, 3200 E St, SE; Cornerstone, 1800 Minnesota Ave, SE; Wheeler Park, 3211 – 3221 Wheeler Road, SE; and Oxon Run Manor, 207 Mississippi Ave, SE. Curtis advertises available apartments online and on third-party listing services, including Apartments.com.

Anti-Discrimination Protections
The District’s Human Rights Act (HRA) is one of the strongest civil rights laws in the country. Among the protections the law affords, it specifically outlaws housing discrimination based on source of income, making it illegal for landlords to refuse prospective tenants or treat tenants differently simply because they rely on vouchers or other forms of housing assistance. The HRA also outlaws discriminatory housing advertisements. Despite these protections, recent studies show that 15 percent of District-area landlords still refuse to accept vouchers. District residents expressed significant concerns to OAG about these forms of housing discrimination at Civil Rights Listening Sessions held in 2019.

Settlement
In its June 2019 lawsuit, OAG alleged that Curtis violated the HRA by posting discriminatory online ads for apartments and by refusing to accept certain forms of housing assistance as rent payment. In online advertisements and on Apartments.com, the company explicitly stated “**NOT ACCEPTING VOUCHERS AT THIS TIME**” and “[a]t this time, we are not accepting any vouchers or rapid rehousing.” A Curtis representative also verbally confirmed these policies to OAG. On July 24, 2019, the Court granted OAG’s request for a preliminary injunction to stop this discriminatory conduct.

Under the terms of the settlement, Curtis Investment Group and related entities will be required to:

  • Pay $900,000 to the District: Curtis entities will pay the District a total of $900,000.00 for costs and expenses the District has incurred investigating and litigating this matter and to resolve this case without further litigation.
     
  • Implement new anti-discrimination policies: Curtis must implement and follow written policies requiring compliance with the District of Columbia’s anti-discrimination laws based on source of income and other protected categories. They must accept housing assistance, as required by law, and must not post any discriminatory ads.
     
  • Conduct anti-discrimination training for employees: Curtis is required to provide anti-discrimination training, including training regarding the HRA, to all employees, officers and directors at least once a year for four years. Curtis is also required to provide anti-discrimination training to all new employees within the first 30 days of employment.

A copy of the consent order is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-02/DC-v-Curtis-Consent-Order.pdf

OAG’s Civil Rights Work and Resources
OAG’s Civil Rights Section investigates and brings lawsuits to challenge discriminatory policies and practices that harm District residents. Since the Civil Rights Section was established in 2019, OAG has filed several lawsuits against landlords that unlawfully discriminated against low-income renters and worked with Apartments.com and Zillow to fight housing discrimination on their platforms. OAG has also reached a settlement with a home repair company that illegally refused to do business in certain District neighborhoods. OAG held several Civil Rights Listening Sessions across the District in 2019 to hear directly from residents regarding their civil rights concerns and help the Civil Rights Section define its priorities. On February 19, OAG will testify before the Council on its pending legislation to expand the office’s enforcement authority regarding the HRA. Learn more about the District’s civil rights protections and how OAG is working to enforce them.

If you believe you have been a victim of discrimination, you may report it to OAG’s Civil Rights Section by:

  • Calling (202) 727-3400
  • E-mailing OAGCivilRights@dc.gov
  • Mailing OAG, ATTN: Civil Rights Section at 441 4th Street N.W., Suite 600S, Washington, D.C. 20001

OAG’s civil rights work complements the work of the Office of Human Rights (OHR), which is the primary District agency that investigates individual discrimination complaints. You can file a complaint with OHR at https://ohr.dc.gov/ or call 202-727-4559.

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