WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced that the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) filed eight separate lawsuits against 16 real estate companies and professionals for illegal housing discrimination in the District. OAG alleges that the defendants—realtors, property managers, and other individuals offering homes for rent in Wards 1, 4, 5, 7, and 8—posted discriminatory advertisements online stating that they would not rent to prospective tenants who used housing vouchers. Under District law, it is illegal for landlords to discriminate against people who use housing assistance to pay all or part of their rent. Additionally, because of the large number of African Americans enrolled in housing assistance programs in the District, OAG argues that discrimination against voucher-holders is a form of illegal racial discrimination. OAG is seeking a court order to stop the illegal discrimination, as well as damages, civil penalties, and costs to the District.
“Discriminating against District residents who use housing vouchers to pay their rent violates D.C. law,” said AG Racine. “Residents squeezed by the existing affordable housing crisis and now the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic should not have to face the additional barrier of illegal housing discrimination. Real estate companies and professionals doing business in the District should know that the Office of the Attorney General will file suit to protect vulnerable residents’ access to safe and affordable housing.”
Housing Assistance and Non-Discrimination
Housing assistance programs are a core pillar of the District’s response to the current affordable housing crisis, helping low-income residents keep a roof over their heads. Roughly 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 percent of housing voucher holders are African American, although African American residents make up only 48 percent of the District’s total population.
Among the protections the District’s Human Rights Act (HRA) 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. It is also a violation of the HRA to take any action that has “the effect or consequence” of discriminating based on race. Despite the HRA protections, a recent study showed that 15 percent of District-area landlords still refuse to accept vouchers. District residents expressed significant concerns to OAG about housing discrimination at Civil Rights Listening Sessions held in 2019.
Housing Discrimination Lawsuits
The District alleges 16 real estate companies and professionals offering properties for rent in Wards 1, 4, 5, 7 and 8 violated the HRA by:
- Discriminating based on source of income: All of the defendants posted online ads for apartments or houses 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.
- Discriminating based on race: 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 D.C. This means that the defendants’ refusal to accept voucher holders is, in effect, a illegal discriminatory practice against African Americans.
OAG filed eight lawsuits against a total of 16 defendants who posted discriminatory advertisements for the following properties:
- Ward 1 - 1325 Belmont Street NW: The District alleges that real-estate broker Spring Hill Real Estate, LLC and salesperson Piedad Suarez posted six discriminatory ads at this townhouse. These ads stated “NOT APPROVED for Voucher Program of DC Housing” and were posted on Apartments.com, Coldwell Banker Homes, Hotpads, Realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow.
The complaint is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/1325-Belmont-St-NW-Complaint.pdf
- Ward 4 - 4316 14th Street NW: The District alleges that property manager Aysegul Yuksek, at the direction of property owner, 4316 14th Street, NW, LLC, posted a discriminatory advertisement for the Ward 4 property. The advertisement was posted on Craigslist and indicated that the property was “Not available for housing vouchers.”
The complaint is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/4316-14th-St-NW-Complaint.pdf
- Ward 5 - 131 R Street NE: The District alleges that realtor José Burrello and his brokerage company, The Burrello Group, posted nine discriminatory ads for this Ward 5 property stating: “Not approved for vouchers.” The ads were posted on ColdwellBanksHomes.com, ForRent.com, Apartments.com, Trulia.com, Hotpads.com, Zumper.com, MarylandRealEstateSearch.com, ApartmentList.com and Compass.com.
The complaint is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/131-R-St-NE-Complaint.pdf
- Ward 5 - 3714 Commodore Joshua Barney Drive NE: The District alleges that realtor Brian Logan and his brokerage company Brian Logan Real Estate posted five discriminatory ads for a property located at 3714 Commodore Joshua Barney Drive NE Ward 5 in the District. These ads stating “SORRY, NO VOUCHERS. THIS PROPERTY IS NOT IN THE PROGRAM” were posted on Craigslist.com, Apartments.com, LoganFoster.com, ColdwellBankerHomes.com and HomeSnap.com. Brian Logan also refused to rent to a potential tenant because the tenant intended to use a housing voucher.
The complaint is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/3714-Commodore-Joshua-Barney-Dr-NE-Complaint.pdf
- Ward 7 - 4630 Hillside Road SE: The District alleges that Stephen Talley, acting without a real estate professional license, posted a discriminatory advertisement for a property located in Ward 7. The ad stating “NO HCVP VOUCHERS . . . MARKET RENT ONLY” was posted on Craigslist. Defendant Talley also refused to rent both the Hillside Property and another property located at 5736 27th Street NW to prospective tenants because of their source of income.
The complaint is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/4630-Hillside-Rd-SE-Complaint.pdf
- Ward 7 - 3935 S Street SE: The District alleges that Virginia licensed broker, salesperson and property manager William Amaya, acting under the brokerage of Global Alliance Realty & Management Services, LLC, posted a discriminatory advertisement for this Ward 7 property on Apartments.com. The ad indicated “No Section 8.”
The complaint is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/3935-S-St-SE-Complaint.pdf
- Ward 8 - 1414 18th Place SE: The District alleges that real estate broker Inclusions and Associates Real Estate, LLC and salesperson Michael Bradley posted four discriminatory advertisements for a rental property located at this property. The ads stated that “The owner is not approved for the Housing Voucher Program” and were posted on Zillow, Hotpads, Trulia and Realtor.com.
The complaint is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/1414-18th-Place-SE-Complaint.pdf
- Ward 8 - 1700 Gainesville Street SE: The District alleges that real estate company Fairfax Realty Selection, its real estate broker David P. Michalski and its salesperson Ellta Solomon posted four discriminatory advertisements to lease this property. The ads stated: “No Section 8 Voucher at this time”; “No Vouchers Accepted”; and “Section 8 Voucher not accepted at this time.” The defendants posted the ads on Zillow, Hotpads, Craigslist and ApartmentList.com.
The complaint is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/1700-Gainesville-St-SE-Complaint.pdf
In each of the eight lawsuits, OAG is seeking an injunction to stop the illegal discrimination, as well as damages, civil penalties, and costs to the District.
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 and Evolve LLC, for unlawfully discriminating against low-income renters, and reached a settlement with Curtis Investment Group requiring the company to pay $900,000 to the District. The office 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. In 2019, OAG held several Civil Rights Listening Sessions across the District to hear from residents about their civil rights concerns and to help the Civil Rights Section define its priorities. 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 NW, 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 ohr.dc.gov or call 202-727-4559.