Rental brokers continue to tell apartment seekers that Section 8 is not welcome at certain complexes — unaware that the practice is illegal, or not realizing that the callers are actually posing as prospective tenants and recording the conversations.
The latest to be tripped up is real estate agent Pasquale Marciano, who owns Century 21 Marciano and NewRoc Property Management, Westfair Business Journal reported.
Agents overseen by New Rochelle-based Marciano, who handles 13 properties with a total of 76 units, allegedly turned away undercover investigators who indicated they would use Section 8 housing vouchers to pay rent.
The callers, from nonprofit Housing Rights Initiative, reported their findings to New York Attorney General Letitia James, who pursued the case and this week announced a settlement with Marciano, the publication reported. The small-time Westchester County operator will have to fork over $40,000 to the state and make various changes to his business.
Marciano must put anti-discrimination language on rental applications, advertise that his units can be rented with government subsidies, ensure rental application fees are capped at $20, and waive broker fees for five years in deals involving government subsidies.
The settlement also requires Marciano to place nine tenants using Section 8 other government subsidies into units.
According to the attorney general, Century 21 Marciano had a policy barring holders of Section 8 housing vouchers from submitting rental applications. Under state law, that is source of income discrimination.
New York City-based HRI told The Real Deal that it has seen a significant decline in discrimination against its callers since it began testing brokerages, property managers and landlords some years ago.
It is not the only fair-housing nonprofit using fake Section 8 tenants to expose people in the rental housing industry who don’t know or don’t follow the rules.
Long Island Housing Services testers have negotiated five-figure settlements with a number of rental complexes in Nassau and Suffolk counties, most recently in Smithtown.
Operators of 72-unit Willow Lake Apartments allegedly told applicants they needed a credit score of at least 680 and income of three times the annual rent, or $90,000, not counting any vouchers, Newsday reported.
LIHS brought a case against Willow Lake, which settled for $19,500.
This article has been updated with comments from Housing Rights Initiative.
— Holden Walter-Warner