WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced settlements in three lawsuits against real estate companies accused of illegally discriminating against low-income District residents who use housing vouchers to pay rent at properties in Wards 1, 7, and 8.
As a result of the settlements, three companies—Spring Hill Real Estate, LLC; Fairfax Reality of Falls Church, LLC; and Global Alliance Realty & Management Services, LLC—will be required to pay a total of nearly $50,000 in penalties to the District, conduct annual fair housing trainings for staff, implement anti-discrimination policies, and report compliance to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). In 2020, OAG brought enforcement actions against numerous landlords who posted discriminatory online ads stating they would not rent to tenants who used housing vouchers. Under District law, it is illegal for landlords to discriminate against individuals who use housing assistance to pay all or part of their rent.
“Housing vouchers and other subsidies are a critical lifeline for low-income District residents, who have been squeezed by rising housing costs for years, and who have faced significant financial hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said AG Racine. “My office filed these lawsuits to stand up for vulnerable residents and end illegal discrimination that threatens their access to housing. Real estate professionals should know that if they violate our anti-discrimination laws, we will hold them accountable. The resolution of these lawsuits will now lead to more housing opportunities for residents in the future.”
The District’s Human Rights Act (DCHRA) broadly outlaws discrimination based on traits including race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and disability. The law also specifically prohibits 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. About 10,500 low-income District households depend on the federally-funded Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly called “Section 8” vouchers, to rent housing at market rates. In the District, over 90% of housing voucher holders are African American, although African American residents make up only 48% of the District’s total population.
In July 2020, the District announced eight separate lawsuits against 16 real estate companies and professionals for allegedly violating the HRA by discriminating based on source of income and discriminating based on race. All of the defendants posted online ads for apartments or houses in the District that explicitly stated that they would not accept housing assistance as rental payment.
Refusing prospective tenants or treating tenants differently because they rely on vouchers or other forms of housing assistance is an illegal discriminatory practice based on source of income. Given the disproportionate number of African Americans using housing vouchers in the District, discrimination based on source of income is 71 times more likely to impact an African American renter rather than a white renter in DC. This means that refusal to accept voucher holders is, in effect, also an illegal discriminatory practice against African Americans.
Under the terms of individual settlement agreements, Spring Hill Real Estate, LLC; Fairfax Reality of Falls Church, LLC; and Global Alliance Realty & Management Services, LLC will be required to:
- Pay penalties to the District: Spring Hill Real Estate, LLC will be required to pay a penalty of $20,792. Fairfax Realty of Falls Church, LLC will be required to pay a penalty of $20,000. Global Alliance Realty & Management Services, LLC will be required to pay $8,424.
- Maintain written anti-discrimination policies: Each of the three companies must create and follow written policies requiring compliance with the District’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 fair housing training for employees: The companies are required to provide fair housing training, including training regarding the DCHRA, annually.
- Report compliance to OAG: Each company must provide a yearly statement to OAG identifying any complaints of discrimination made against them.
A copy of the settlement agreement with Spring Hill Real Estate, LLC is available here.
A copy of the settlement agreement with Fairfax Realty of Falls Church, LLC is available here.
A copy of the settlement agreement with Global Alliance Realty & Management Services, LLC is available here.
Protecting Civil Rights
OAG’s Civil Rights Section, established in 2019, investigates and brings lawsuits to challenge discriminatory policies and practices that harm District residents. OAG has filed suit against Daro Management for unlawfully discriminating against low-income renters, and reached settlements with Evolve, LLC and Curtis Investment Group for similar claims, requiring the companies to pay up to $250,000 and $900,000 to the District, respectively. In July 2020, OAG announced a tranche of lawsuits against 16 real estate companies and professionals engaged in illegal source of income discrimination. The office has also worked with Apartments.com and Zillow to fight housing discrimination on their platforms. Additionally, OAG has reached a settlement with a home repair company that illegally refused to do business in certain District neighborhoods. 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:
- Submitting a civil rights tip online
- Calling (202) 727-3400
- E-mailing OAGCivilRights@dc.gov
- Mailing OAG, ATTN: Civil Rights Section at 400 6th Street NW, Suite 10100, 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 ohr.dc.gov or call 202-727-4559.