Ct. landlord pays $5,000 to settle bias complaint over security deposit

Contact person: Joe Wincze/Bpt Fair Housing Office, 45 Lyon Terrace, Bridgeport, CT 06604 (203)576-8323 

(BRIDGEPORT, Ct., Sept. 9, 2003) -- A Bridgeport,CT landlord who demanded a tenant pay "cash up front" to cover a security deposit rather than accept a guarantee for it under a state program has recently agreed to pay cash up front himself in the amount of $5,000 to compensate for an alleged act of housing discrimination!  This announcement of a recent settlement comes from information released by the City of Bridgeport's Fair Housing Office.

The settlement resulted from a complaint which had been filed earlier this year with the Connecticut Commission On Human Rights & Opportunities.  It was filed by a single mother (Danisha Aranjo) with three minor children who claimed she was denied an opportunity to rent an apartment because the landlord (Gladstone Blake) refused to accept her "Security Deposit Guarantee" issued to her by the Connecticut Department of Social Services. Instead Mr. Blake had insisted Ms. Aranjo pay the required two months security deposit with her own monies before moving in and stated that the guarantee offered by the state was simply unacceptable.  The SDG Program operating in Connecticut is designed to assist tenants on the Section 8 Voucher Program and others in emergency housing situations by providing a written guarantee to the landlord to cover the cost (up to two month's rent)of any damages caused by the tenant at the conclusion of the leasing period. This guarantee is made in lieu of monies being paid out by the tenant for security deposit at the beginning of the leasing period.  Under Connecticut state law, it is considered to be a discriminatory act for any landlord to refuse a tenant because they are a participant in this program.  The protection comes from the "source of income" provision in the state's housing discrimination statute which says a tenant can not be discriminated against or denied housing simply because they receive a form of rental assistance.

According to Ms. Aranjo's sworn affidavit, Mr. Blake told her he would not rent to her if she was using the SDG Program because he had bills to pay and needed his cash "up front".  If she could not pay the money herself, he indicated he would rent to someone else.  He did so and Ms. Aranjo contacted the Bridgeport Fair Housing Office who assisted her in filing a complaint against Mr. Blake. In June, the CT Commission On Human Rights & Opportunities made a CAUSE FINDING after a full investigation of the facts charging the landlord with committing a discriminatory act. Following a CAUSE FINDING, the parties reached a mutual agreement to settle the case. Ms. Aranjo's attorney, Jennifer Vickery of Bridgeport, was responsible for negotiating the $5,000. settlement which was an attempt to compensate her client for out of pocket expenses as well her emotional distress.

Joe Wincze, Director of the Bridgeport Fair Housing Office, pointed out the mistake the landlord made in this case was not understanding the definition of 'security deposit'.  "Mr. Blake was assuming that it was his money to do what he wanted with it, but it clearly is NOT! It is the tenant's money and it is supposed to be kept in an escrow account by the landlord; and the landlord can only withdraw from this account for his own personal use if he is either deducting for damages done to the apartment or unpaid rent. Whether or not Mr. Blake had bills to pay should have had nothing to do with any monies received for security deposit. Unfortunately, not realizing this has given Mr. Blake a new bill to pay- this one costing $5,000!"