March 18, 2021
NLSP Announces Resolution of Source of Income Discrimination Complaint Through Court Enforced Agreement
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 18, 2021
Housing Counseling Services and District Voucher Holder Resolve Source of Income Discrimination Complaint Through Court Enforced Agreement with Bozzuto Management Company
Bozzuto Makes it Easier for Tenants Using Housing Vouchers to Rent at its Properties
Washington, D.C. – March 16, 2020 – Housing Counseling Services (HCS), a non-profit organization that provides comprehensive housing counseling to low-income individuals, and Robert Evans, a D.C. resident, have entered into a settlement agreement with Bozzuto Management Company. The agreement is designed to eliminate discriminatory barriers to housing for residents seeking rental housing using subsidies. It is important because it will make it easier for D.C. residents who use housing subsidies to secure housing opportunities in the District’s tight housing market.
“This agreement will improve the lives of numerous DC residents every year. Because of Bozzuto's new tenant screening policy, low-income people with housing subsidies will face much less illegal discrimination in their housing searches and will have an easier time finding a safe place to live,” said Lori Leibowitz, managing attorney of the Neighborhood Legal Services Program.
George Ruttinger, a partner at Crowell & Moring said: “Denying housing to voucher holders poses a major barrier to addressing the affordable housing crisis in the District. By this settlement, Bozzuto has committed to doing its part to remedy this problem at the properties that it manages. This is a welcome development that should set an example for other property owners and managers.”
“I know that there are apartments in DC that don’t take vouchers, and so I feel great about the agreement with Bozzuto,” Evans said. “And, I feel great that through this agreement, Bozzuto is promising to treat voucher holders fairly.”
The agreement resolves a complaint against Bozzuto that HCS and Evans filed in D.C. Superior Court in January 2020, which alleged that Evans was prevented from moving into a building previously managed by Bozzuto after Evans revealed that he intended to use a housing subsidy to pay for part of his rent.
The agreement provides that Bozzuto will:
- Charge tenants using income based subsidies the same rents as those who pay their rent without a subsidy;
- Not consider credit score when a prospective tenant will use an income based subsidy to pay rent;
- Not impose minimum income requirements on prospective tenants using an income-based subsidy to pay rent; and
- Provide fair housing training to its staff.
In addition, Bozzuto will make a monetary payment to HCS and Evans to cover costs, attorneys’ fees, and damages. A copy of the original complaint is available here.
HCS and Evans were represented in this matter by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, Neighborhood Legal Services Program, and Crowell & Moring LLP.
“The use of vouchers to pay rent is critically important as working and low-income residents continue to face an affordable housing crisis in DC. The ability to use a rental subsidy to secure a safe and affordable rental apartment often means the difference between homelessness and the stability that accompanies safe shelter,” said Mirela Missova, counsel of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee.
HCS Executive Director Marian Siegel commented: “This agreement addresses important rights and offers supports to low income tenants using vouchers by ensuring equal access and reducing unnecessary burdens in securing housing. We are pleased that a great number of tenants will be more likely to access affordable homes as a result of these efforts.”
A copy of the complaint can be found here.
Individuals who believe they may have experienced illegal discrimination because they receive a housing subsidy in the Washington, D.C. area are encouraged to report their experiences to the Washington Lawyers’ Committee at 202-319-1000 or to Neighborhood Legal Services at 202-832-6577.
Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
Neighborhood Legal Services Program
Crowell & Moring
About the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs:
Founded in 1968, The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs works to create legal, economic and social equity through litigation, client and public education and public policy advocacy. While we fight discrimination against all people, we recognize the central role that current and historic race discrimination plays in sustaining inequity and recognize the critical importance of identifying, exposing, combatting and dismantling the systems that sustain racial oppression. For more information, please visit http://www.washlaw.org or call 202-319-1000. Follow us on Twitter at @WashLaw4CR.
About Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP):
NLSP is a non-profit legal services organization that provides free legal information, advice, and representation to low-income DC residents on all civil matters, including housing, family and economic security issues. Founded in 1964, NLSP is committed to equal access to justice for all members of our community and to working towards a more just and equitable Washington D.C. for all residents. For more information, please visit our website, http://nlsp.org/, call us at 202-832-6577, or follow us on Twitter at @NLSP_DC.
About Crowell & Moring LLP:
Crowell & Moring LLP is an international law firm with approximately 550 lawyers representing clients in litigation and arbitration, regulatory and policy, and transactional matters. The firm is internationally recognized for its representation of Fortune 500 companies in high-stakes litigation, as well as its ongoing commitment to pro bono service and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Visit the firm at www.crowell.com.
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