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December 2, 09

NEWS / Division on Civil Rights Files Amicus Brief in Appellate Housing Case Involving Alleged Source-of-In

TRENTON Ė The Division on Civil Rights announced today that it filed an amicus brief in the Appellate Division on behalf of a woman who sued a Mercer County apartment complex charging unlawful source-of-income discrimination.

The woman, Denise Bell, is disabled, unemployed and receives rental help through the New Jersey State Rental Assistance Program. She sued Tower Management Services, doing business as Sunnybrae Apartments of Yardville, after Sunnybrae denied her rental application because she failed to meet the complexís minimum income threshold of $28,000 per year.

A recipient of federal Social Security disability income as well as state rental assistance aid, Bell maintained that Sunnybraeís strict income requirement violates the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) because it denies housing to tenants, like Bell, whose incomes fall below the landlordís threshold, but who can afford their reduced rental obligations once their state-provided rental vouchers are considered.

A Superior Court judge dismissed Bellís lawsuit in 2008, finding that Sunnybraeís decision to deny Bellís application was lawful. The court also rejected Bellís claim that Sunnybraeís minimum income requirement had a disparate impact. Bell filed an appeal with the Appellate Division in March of this year.

The Division on Civil Rightsí amicus brief takes issue with the trial court ruling. The brief charges that having an inflexible minimum income requirement that fails to consider state-provided rental vouchers in determining an applicantís ability to pay rent violates the LADís source-of-income provision. The brief also argues that Sunnybraeís policy has a disparate impact on voucher holders, virtually all of whom would be excluded by the income requirement.

The brief contends that, ďA liberal interpretation of the LAD dictates that, so long as prospective tenants can demonstrate that they have sufficient income to pay their individual portions of the rent not covered by their rental assistance vouchers, they should not be held to an income standard that bares no rational or reasonable relationshipĒ to their ability to pay.

The brief asks the Appellate panel to determine that ďa landlord should only consider a prospective tenantís ability to pay his or her personal rental obligation. For example, if a rental voucher will cover 80 percent of a tenantís rent, then the tenant need only show sufficient income to pay 20 percent of the rent.Ē

ďThere was no reason to deny (Denise Bell) the right to rent an available apartment,Ē the Divisionís brief asserts, ďsince she had sufficient income to meet her personal rent obligation for that part of the rent not covered by voucher payments.Ē

The brief asks the Appellate panel to reverse the trial courtís dismissal of Bellís lawsuit, and to remand the case for further proceedings.

Bell originally applied for an apartment at Sunnybrae in November 2005 and was rejected. She then requested a waiver of Sunnybraeís minimum income requirement in December 2005 and that request was denied.

Bell filed her discrimination lawsuit on April 17, 2007. A Superior Court judge issued an oral opinion dismissing the complaint on December 12, 2008. Bell subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration of the ruling, which the judge denied on February 20 of this year. Bell then filed her appeal with the Appellate Division on March 24.

Deputy Attorney General Leland S. McGee and Assistant Attorney General Andrea M. Silkowitz are handling the Appellate Division amicus brief on behalf of the Division on Civil Rights.




AnnaMaria Realbuto
Thank you for all your assistance and efficiency...
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Kateryna Melnychenko
Thanks a lot Anton!...
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Rani Payne
Thank you so much! Iím sure I will be in touch again with something else that will need to be apost...
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Serge Bauer Law
Thank you again for your help with this case!...
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