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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
April 15, 2005

Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General
Division on Civil Rights
- J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo, Director


Lee Moore


AG Harvey Announces Finding of Probable Cause in Housing Rental Case;
Passaic County Landlord Accused of Rejecting Potential Tenant Who is Hispanic

TRENTON – Attorney General Peter C. Harvey and the Division on Civil Rights announced today that the State has issued a Finding of Probable Cause against the owners of a Passaic County apartment complex for allegedly denying a Hispanic man housing because of his national origin.

Named as a Respondent in the Finding of Probable Cause document is the Call Holding Corporation, owner of a 14-unit garden apartment facility located in Clifton. Call Holding Corporation is accused of refusing to rent to prospective tenant Frankie Lorenzo, of Paterson, because he is Hispanic.

A Finding of Probable Cause means the State has finished its investigation, and has determined there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion that the actions of the Call Holding Corporation’s ownership and on-site management violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD).

“This is America, and it is vitally important that, in America, a person’s option to live anywhere he or she chooses is protected,” said Attorney General Harvey. “Through the use of undercover testers and other means, we have increased the investigation and prosecution of housing discrimination cases, and intend to continue doing so. We are committed to discouraging a ‘them-and-us’ mentality among housing providers, and to ensuring equal opportunity for all property renters and buyers.”

According to Attorney General Harvey, Lorenzo inquired about an apartment that was being advertised on the premises of the apartment facility operated by Call Holding in October 2004. He was told at the time there was no apartment available, and he was not offered a rental application.

Harvey said that, after Lorenzo’s visit, an individual who is not Hispanic contacted Call Holding about the same apartment and was told it was still available, and that he was welcome to inspect it. Shortly afterward another person, also a non-Hispanic, visited the Call Holding site. The individual was told an apartment would be available within two weeks -- after some repairs were completed – and was given a rental application. Eventually, the dwelling was rented to a non-Hispanic.

Division on Civil Rights Director J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo said the Division “established a specialized Housing Investigations Unit to address situations exactly like this one.”

“This is the type of alleged discrimination our investigators hear about quite often. It happens more than you would like to think,” said Vespa-Papaleo. “We encourage anyone who has been treated in a similar fashion to call us at our toll-free housing hotline, 1-866-405-3050, and help us put an end to unlawful housing discrimination in New Jersey.”

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) provides that each Respondent found to have committed a violation is subject to a penalty of up to $10,000, provided he or she has not been convicted of a previous violation within the past five years. Respondents who have violated the LAD within the past five years are subject to a penalty of up to $25,000, while those who have been convicted of two or more violations within the past seven years are subject to a penalty of up to $50,000.

Now that a Finding of Probable Cause has been issued, the case moves into a phase known as conciliation, a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in which the parties make a final attempt to resolve the matter. If it is not resolved at conciliation, the matter can be referred for a hearing on the merits.

Prior Housing Discrimination Suits

Under the leadership of Attorney General Harvey and Director Vespa-Papaleo, the Division on Civil Rights has been vigorous in combating housing discrimination. In 2004, the DCR settled four “Section 8” housing discrimination prosecutions involving these New Jersey landlords and real estate agencies: Atlantic Coast Realty, Garden State Realty, 599 Broadway Management and Clinton Manor Associates. The complaints were the first filed under a new State law that prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of a tenant's source of lawful income, or rental subsidy. The first case to settle involved Atlantic Coast Realty, of Brigantine. The settlement called for Atlantic to fund a DCR-led training session on the LAD for approximately 1,000 real estate industry professionals from three South Jersey counties, monitoring of Atlantic's rental practices, and the prominent display of information on the use of federal Section 8 rental vouchers. The DCR subsequently settled the remaining three cases. Each settlement included an agreement by the Respondent to increase training and awareness. The three Respondents also paid the Division a total of $80,000 in compensatory damages.

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