Section 8 bias complaint with Ct. landlord settles for $8,000

 Contact: Joe Wincze, Fair Housing Assn. of CT, (203)576-8323

(Bridgeport, CT, Jul. 23, 2004) -- Vanessa Torres of Bridgeport,CT became upset when she learned her application for rental housing had been rejected because she didn't meet the income requirements the landlord had set. Normally, income requirements would be understandable; but Ms. Torres had a Section 8 voucher and the majority of the rent for the $850/month 2-bedroom apartment would have been paid by the Section 8 Office. Her portion would have been $55 which she believed she could handle out of her monthly income of $640. However, the landlord (Main Street Holding Corp) was requiring her to have a monthly income of $2,100. She considered this unfair and discriminatory.
      So in March, 2003 Ms. Torres contacted the City of Bridgeport's Fair Housing Office and was assisted in the filing of a complaint with the Connecticut Commission On Human Rights and Opportunities. The basis of her complaint was a claim of alleged discrimination due to her Section 8 voucher which is covered by state law as a protected class under Connecticut's housing discrimination statute which includes "source of income".
      In Ms. Torres's sworn affidavit filed with CHRO, she believed herself the victim of a discriminatory act because Main Street Holding Corp. did not wish to rent to a Section 8 tenant; and she considered the income requirements a "smokescreen" as a means of being able to reject her application. She also regarded the landlord's explanation that the income requirements were necessary to make certain she had sufficient funds to pay her utility bills to be bogus and entirely without merit. With a rent payment of $55, Ms. Torres believed she would have no difficulty paying her other bills including the cost of utilities. Besides, she had never been late with her utility bills in the past and had never received a shutoff notice.
      In April, 2004 the Connecticut Commission completed a full investigation of the facts of the case and concluded that an act of discrimination had been committed by Main Street Holding Corp. A month later a settlement was reached between the parties which was negotiated by Ms. Torres's attorney- Alan Rosner of Bridgeport- which called for Main Street to pay Ms. Torres a total of $8,000.
      Joe Wincze- Director of the Bridgeport Fair Housing Office and President of the statewide advocacy group, Fair Housing Association of Connecticut- was pleased with the settlement but suprised at Main Street's resistance to settle prior to a Cause Finding being made by CHRO. Wincze pointed out a previous state Supreme Court decision in 1999 had made it clear that any attempt by a landlord to effectively eliminate otherwise qualified Section 8 tenants by enforcing a ridiculous income requirement was discriminatory and viewed as an attempt to circumvent the law. Wincze commented, "I guess this landlord didn't get a chance to read that decision, despite the fact it appeared in just about all the newspapers!"