Real Estate

Bed-Stuy Realty Company Fined for Housing Discrimination Practices

June 24, 2016 11:38am | Updated June 24, 2016 11:38am
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaking at a press conference in May 2014. Schneiderman announced a settlement Thursday with a Bedford-Stuyvesant real estate company for unlawful housing discrimination.
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DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A Brooklyn firm of realtors discriminated against prospective tenants who were using rental assistance vouchers, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Thursday.

Undercover calls to Rapid Realty Bedford Stuyvesant found that it discriminated against potential applicants with Living In Communities (LINC) III rental assistance vouchers, according to the Attorney General’s office.

The assistance program helps homeless victims of domestic violence obtain housing.

“My office is committed to protecting domestic violence victims and eliminating sources of income discrimination,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

“Victims of domestic violence face unspeakable hardships in every aspect of their personal lives.

“Our hope is that these agreements will help to alleviate the burden on domestic violence survivors trying to find a safe place to live — especially in the midst of New York’s affordable housing crisis.”

Following reports that city landlords were refusing to accept tenants with LINC III vouchers, Schneiderman’s office conducted the phone tests in the spring of 2015.

City law prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of lawful source of income, including government vouchers, according to officials.

In one call, a representative from Rapid Realty Bedford Stuyvesant (RBS) told the caller inquiring about apartments: “The listings that I have don’t have anything to do with programs,” and the landlords she works with do not “deal with programs at all,” according to documents.

The representative also referred the caller to another agent who she said was more familiar with the programs, documents show.

A firm spokesman said that call was not representative of its policies.

“In the case of this particular agent, the listings they had did not fall under the category of rent price that would allow a tenant to rent the apartments with a voucher, because the voucher amount was lower than the prices of the apartments this agent represented,” said Raymond Ruiz, a broker with Rapid Realty Bedford Stuyvesant.

“Our office works with program vouchers often.”

According to the Attorney General’s review of the firm’s rental applications and other records, RBS has rented to individuals using government subsidies in the past three years.

The real estate company agreed to reform its policies, according to officials, including printing the words “Government Subsidies Accepted” in all its advertisements and on its website and placing the Equal Housing Opportunity logo in its publications.

RBS also agreed to pay a $1,500 fine and employees who work with prospective tenants will attend a fair housing training program.

Ruiz said the Attorney General’s office requested the firm “continue to do the things that we’ve always done,” adding that “this isn’t anything new.”

RBS has a training program in place that teaches agents how to work with program rentals, he said, adding that the investigation uncovered an “isolated incident.”