Bridgeport landlord settles source of income complaint for $5,000



(BRIDGEPORT, Ct., Aug. 14, 2002) -- When State Representative Lydia Martinez from Bridgeport believed one of her constituents was being unfairly discriminated against in her search for a rental housing unit, she immediately did what she could to remedy the situation. And although her initial attempt to resolve it may have been unsuccessful, her efforts have now paid off for the woman and her family to the tune of $5,000 in a recent Connecticut Commission On Human Rights & Opportunities settlement.

Living in a temporary lead-free shelter in Bridgeport this spring, Kathleen Martinez (no relation) was desperately trying to find suitable, permanent housing for herself, husband and two small children when she came across a second floor, 2-bedroom unit on Taft Avenue owned by Rosetta Scott of Fairfield. Martinez liked the apartment and indicated she wished to rent it; but she claimed Scott told her she would not accept her state-issued Department of Social Services Security Deposit Guarantee for the security deposit but instead wanted two months rent IN CASH. (The Security Deposit Guarantee Program is a DSS program which pays no money to the landlord up front, but guarantees to the landlord to cover up to two months rent security deposit in case of damages done to the apartment or unpaid rent).

Upset over Scott’s refusal to accept the program, Katherine Martinez contacted her state representative Lydia Martinez from the 128th District to complain. Lydia Martinez then called Scott herself to attempt to explain to her about the procedures of the Security Deposit Guarantee in hopes of clearing up any confusion she might have. In her sworn affidavit, L. Martinez pointed out that Scott was unreceptive to what she had to say. Scott told her, "If she (K. Martinez) doesn’t have the money up front, she will be no good for me. I want cash money."

Rep. Martinez then referred K. Martinez to Bridgeport’s Fair Housing Office where the Director - Joe Wincze - assisted her with the filing of an official housing discrimination complaint with the CT Commission On Human Rights & Opportunities alleging bias based on source of income. The complaint was filed on March 21st and on August 5th a settlement was reached between Martinez and Scott calling for Scott to not only agree to rent out her next available apartment to the complainant but also pay her $5,000.00 for her inconvenience. Martinez was represented by Astrid Lebron of Connecticut Legal Services.

Wincze, who is also President of the Fair Housing Association of Connecticut, commented that he was very pleased with the settlement and especially the quickness with which it was reached. He attributed the speedy resolution to the good work of Attorney Lebron and Representative Martinez. "Lydia Martinez wasted no time referring Kathy to my office so we could file the complaint and her sworn testimony of her conversation with the landlord made the case an easy one to settle or what the attorneys call "a slam dunk!"