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Housing Counseling Services and Prospective Tenant File Lawsuit Against Bozzuto, Chapman Development, and 2228 MLK LLC for Unlawful Discrimination

Suit Alleges Property Owners and Management Company Charge Low-Income Tenants Using Housing Vouchers Higher Rent

Washington – January 28, 2019: Housing Counseling Services, a non-profit organization that provides comprehensive housing counseling to low-income individuals, and Robert Evans, a D.C. resident, have brought suit to challenge the illegal practice of charging higher rents to persons who use a publicly funded rental subsidy. The defendants in the case, filed in D.C. Superior Court, are Bozzuto & Associates, Inc., Chapman Development, LLC and 2288 MLK, LLC.

Evans receives a rental subsidy through Housing Counseling Services to help pay his rent. He was prevented from living at Maple View Flats, a building owned and operated by the defendants at all times relevant to this action, when he was quoted a rent higher than what defendants charge individuals without subsidies. He was told by the defendants’ agent that it was the policy of the defendants to charge a higher rent to persons who use a voucher than to other tenants. The “voucher” rent quoted to Evans was above the amount covered by his subsidy, so Evans was prevented from living at Maple View Flats.

District of Columbia law protects tenants from discrimination based on the source of their income. The use of vouchers to pay rent is increasingly important as working and low-income residents are facing an affordable housing crisis. 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. Through this litigation, Evans and Housing Counseling Services seek to ensure that the rights of voucher holders are protected and that housing opportunity is expanded for all people in the District.

Marian Siegel, executive director of Housing Counseling Services, notes: “As a result of the incredibly high rental costs in D.C., low-income tenants face tremendous challenges in accessing safe and affordable housing in their neighborhood of choice. When rental housing seekers with subsidies or vouchers that would fully support rental payments are refused housing, the hurdles feel insurmountable. Our clients face these hurdles on a daily basis and it affects every aspect of their lives. In this case, a brave man has decided to fight back. HCS has pledged that discrimination in housing, in its many forms, will never be tolerated, as stable housing is a cornerstone for improved health, increased financial security and better social outcomes.”
The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Neighborhood Legal Services Program, and the international law firm Crowell & Moring LLP are representing Housing Counseling Services and Evans in this matter.

“The District of Columbia has become the most racially and economically segregated city in the nation. Publicly funded vouchers provide the assurance of rental payments to landlords while at the same time the ability of working and low-income individuals and families to live in opportunity neighborhoods. A ruse, such as the one challenged in this case, contributes to the crisis facing the District,” Jonathan M. Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs states.

Lori Leibowitz, managing attorney at NLSP, notes: “Voucher discrimination is rampant in Washington, D.C. The behavior of the defendants in this case is an example of the many insidious ways that landlords are trying to get around the D.C. Human Rights Act, and it is essential that we fight back against these discriminatory practices.”

George Ruttinger, partner at Crowell & Moring, states: “Discrimination against low-income tenants is a significant challenge in the District and other major metropolitan areas, where affordable housing can so often be out of reach for many citizens. This case is part of the ongoing fight to ensure affordable housing to all residents of the District by protecting their right to use housing subsidies to pay their rent.”

Evans remarks on his experience: “I wouldn’t like for anybody to go through this situation again in this city, it’s just not right.”

A copy of the complaint can be found here.

Individuals who believe they may have experienced illegal discrimination because they receive a housing subsidy at a Bozzuto-managed property or any other properties 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.

Contact(s):

Andrew Loeb
Senior Coordinator, PR
+1 202.624.2792
Email: aloeb@crowell.com