Landlord Must Pay Former Tenant After Sandy Housing Discrimination

(Photo courtesy of Toms River Township)

SEASIDE HEIGHTS – In a case of he said, she said, he now has to pay her $28,000, among other resolutions.

While borough landlord Raymond McCann admits no wrongdoing as part of the settlement, he must pay former tenant Joy Fender $28,000 to resolve allegations that he unlawfully evicted her from his single-family property after she sought to pay rent with a state-issued housing assistance voucher for those displaced by Superstorm Sandy.

Fender rented the property from McCann starting in May 2014, and renewed for another year when she won a lottery to receive the Sandy Tenant-Based Rental Assistance, for which she had applied. She alleges that when she asked McCann to fill out his part of the application, he refused to fill it out. The single mother of three was evicted from the property in November 2015. The family stayed in a motel until December that year and then moved into a property where that voucher was accepted.

However, McCann denies all allegations of wrongdoing, and told investigators that Fender never mentioned a Sandy voucher until after he initiated the eviction proceeding.

The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office said McCann, in addition to paying Fender, must adopt a specific nondiscrimination policy that clearly states he accepts government-issued housing assistance vouchers for rental payments, a copy of which must be filed with the Division on Civil Rights, which must be available to all current and future tenants. Property owners are not allowed to discriminate based on lawful sources of income to pay for rentals.

McCann must also “consent to efforts by Fender to clear court records of the eviction action taken against her, and must cooperate with any measures Fender takes to have credit reporting, tenancy and background agency records cleared of the eviction information as well,” the attorney general’s office said.

“Families who pay for their housing with the help of government assistance have a right to live where they choose — and to be treated with dignity and respect,” State Attorney General Gubir S. Grewal said. ”We will hold accountable anyone who denies them this basic right. This settlement resolves troubling allegations and, going forward, should serve as a message to landlords, real estate agents and others involved in the housing industry.”

“State law makes it unlawful to refuse to rent property to someone simply because he or she receives rental assistance. Such behavior is viewed no differently than rejecting a prospective tenant based on race, sexual orientation or religion,” said Division of Civil Rights Director Craig T. Sashihara. “New Jerseyans who were displaced by Superstorm Sandy have suffered enough without the added stress and uncertainty of being denied a home in which to raise their children, simply because they’re forced to temporarily rely on a Sandy voucher to help make ends meet.”