Management of a housing complex in Glenville must put in place nondiscriminatory rental procedures and pay a penalty to the state under a settlement announced Monday with the state Attorney General’s Office.
A statewide undercover investigation on fair housing practices by the agency revealed alleged discrimination against blacks and families with children at Shady Lane Apartments in March 2009. A lawsuit filed in July 2010 against Shady Lane Realty, the owner of Shady Lane Apartments, and Socha Management, its management company, claimed the discrimination was in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
The AG’s office said its investigation revealed that families without children were shown available apartments, while families with children were told there was a waiting list. The evidence also showed that the defendants maintained a long-standing marketing campaign advertising the appeal of the complex as “adult luxury living” and “mature living,” discouraging families with children from applying, and the fair housing tests revealed discrepancies in how would-be renters were treated, depending on the color of their skin, when asking about available apartments.
Under the new agreement, non-discriminatory rental procedures must now be implemented by Shady Lanes Apartment management, along with a non-discrimination policy.
Also, the public must be notified of the non-discrimination policy, and fair housing training is required for all rental agents, with periodic reports to the Attorney General’s Office.
The owner, management company, and rental agent of Shady Lane Apartments will also need to pay a $22,000 penalty to the state.
“Depriving people of housing because they have children or because of their race is not only illegal, it is unconscionable,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a news release. “Landlords who violate our state’s fair housing laws will be held accountable. My office will not tolerate people being told where they can and cannot live based on their familial status, race, or any other unlawful reasons, and will continue to work to ensure equal access to housing for all New Yorkers.”
The complex’s office manager, Deana Toupe, and William Socha, president of Socha Management, have denied the discrimination allegations from the beginning and in late July 2010 held a news conference outside the complex with about 200 tenants there to show support.
“We settled, but that’s because we’ve spent more than $122,000 since this process began and spending another $22,000 is cheaper than going to trial,” Socha said Monday. “But as Deana and I have said before, we don’t discriminate here.”
He believes the lawsuit and the new procedures that will be implemented as a result will make it harder for “protected classes of people” to get an apartment at Shady Lanes. Prospective tenants will now have a criminal background check and financial screening before they are accepted to live in the complex.
However, the state maintains that nothing in the law or agreement stipulates that the checks have to be made and that they are at the will of Shady Lane Apartments management.
Socha went on to explain that, despite the state’s findings, both black tenants and families with children live in the complex, although the majority of those living at Shady Lanes are retired.
“I think that’s just because of the demographics of the area,” he said.