African-Americans lied to at New Jersey complex

Chandler Associates, the owners of Pleasant View Apartments in Piscataway, New Jersey, have agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a United States Department of Justice lawsuit which alleged that the managers of the complex had discriminated against prospective tenants on the basis of race.  It is the first fair housing settlement that the Justice Department has obtained in New Jersey.

 The June 18 settlement, filed in United States District Court in Newark, calls for Chandler Associates to pay $750,000 to the victims of the alleged discrimination which occurred at the 1,142-unit complex, $200,000 in civil penalties to the United States Treasury (the largest civil penalty ever paid in a fair housing case), and $550,000 to fund a fair housing project.  Chandler Associates also agreed to train its employees at Pleasant View and the eight other complexes it owns in New Jersey which house an additional 1,200 units.  The Justice Department also laid out specific advertising guidelines that Chandler Associates must follow in the future.

African-Americans told no units were available
According to the complaint filed by the Department of Justice, rental agents at Pleasant View told African-American homeseekers that no units were available while telling prospective white tenants , within hours of lying to interested African-Americans, that units were available at the complex.  The Department of Justice also alleged that rental agents told white applicants about rent discounts and move-in specials but did not mention them to African-American applicants.
 
According to the Department of Justice, much of the evidence used in the case was provided Northern New Jersey Fair Housing Council based in Hackensack.  The Council sent paired sets of African-American and white testers to Pleasant View Apartments and them compared the experiences of each.  Information on the Northern New Jersey Fair Housing Council’s activities is located on their web page at http://www.fairhousing.com/nnjfhc.

 Isabelle Katz Pinzler, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, said that the discrimination at Pleasant View was easy to see when you compared the experiences of African-American and white testers.  “Seemingly friendly rental agents who don’t tell people of one race about the availability of apartments are engaging in housing discrimination, plain and simple,” she said.

Settlement amounts reveal program’s importance
The size of the settlement, according to Pinzler, is an example of how the Department of Justice’s fair housing testing program is working effectively.  “We will continue to use our testing program to detect and weed out those who engage in this type of discrimination,” she said.

 In addition to the settlement on June 18, the Justice Department also filed a federal lawsuit against another New Jersey complex.  The Justice Department accused the owner and managers of Westfield Manor Apartments, a 120-unit complex in Westfield, of discriminating against African-Americans by telling them that units were not available when they were.

 Including these two New Jersey cases, the United States Department of Justice has now filed 36 federal housing discrimination lawsuits in 10 states using evidence from its nationwide fair housing testing program.  The suits that have been resolved have garnered more than $6.5 million in settlements.