(Bridgeport, CT, Sep. 21, 2004) Lawana Ettison of Bridgeport,CT desired to rent a 3-bedroom apartment which had been advertised in the local newspaper in the spring of 2003. At the time, however, she claims the real estate agent would not allow her to use her Security Deposit Guarantee provided by the Connecticut Department of Social Services in the rental of this unit. Specifically, Ms. Ettison alleges in a sworn affidavit that James Menge of Donadeo Realty & Management Company informed her that the Guarantee was unacceptable because, "It's only a guarantee, no money" and "the landlord wouldn't be able to pay their agency fee". Now, a year and a half later, Mr. Menge and Donadeo Realty have more to worry about than just an agency fee; they have recently agreed to settle with Ms. Ettison for $7,500!
Under Connecticut law, it is deemed an illegal act of discrimination for a landlord, real estate agent, etc. to refuse to accept someone for tenancy because of their "lawful source of income". The Security Deposit Guarantee Program which provides eligible participants a guarantee to cover the obligations for security deposit is considered a lawful source of income along with other rental assistance programs such as Section 8, Shelter Plus Care, etc.
Upon being rejected, Ms. Ettison contacted Joe Wincze of the City of Bridgeport's Fair Housing Office who in turn assisted her with the gathering of necessary evidence and the filing of a formal complaint with the Connecticut Commission On Human Rights & Opportunities. In addition, she received assistance in obtaining the services of an attorney to represent her. Attorney Alan Rosner of Bridgeport handled the case and
Wincze stated he was disappointed to learn the complaint was filed against a real estate agent. "It's one thing for a small-time landlord to be unaware of the fine points of the housing discrimination laws, but it is clearly inexcusable for a licensed real estate agent to be ignorant of the law as well."
Despite the payment of $7,500 to Ms. Ettison, the written agreement between the parties states that it is understood that the agreement does not constitute an admission by Mr. Menge or Donadeo Realty of any liability or violation of the law.
contact person: Joe Wincze- Bridgeport Fair Housing Office (203)576-8323 --