Equal Rights Center Announces Settlement Agreements to Resolve Two Housing Discrimination Cases

Jan 02, 2024

December 12, 2023

Settlement terms include monetary relief, policy changes, training, and compliance testing to protect the rights of housing voucher holders

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — Today, the Equal Rights Center (ERC) announced that it entered into two settlement agreements with District landlords and property managers it alleged discriminated on the bases of source of income and race. The agreements will resolve lawsuits the Center filed in D.C. Superior and federal court over the last two years. The settlements mark a significant step forward in the fight against housing discrimination, ensuring all residents have equal access to housing opportunities regardless of their race or whether they use a voucher to pay rent.

The two cases, filed against Adam’s Investment Group et al., and Capital Properties Services, LLC, et al., alleged source of income and race discrimination based on civil rights testing results that the ERC claimed revealed policies or practices of refusing to rent to Housing Choice Voucher holders. The alleged discriminatory practices not only violate fair housing and consumer laws but perpetuate systemic inequalities and limited access to safe and affordable housing.

ERC Executive Director Kate Scott remarks, “Discrimination against voucher holders is unfair, illegal, and keeps our communities segregated. The agreements we are announcing today represent progress in our fight to make the process of finding a new home in the District more equitable.”

D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb intervened in the Adam’s Investment Group litigation shortly after it was filed. Upon its resolution, he commented, “It is illegal in the District of Columbia to discriminate against prospective tenants because they use housing vouchers. With affordable housing increasingly scarce across the city, my office will continue to vigorously enforce DC’s anti-discrimination laws in order to bridge equity gaps that too often prevent all Washingtonians from having access to an affordable place to live. The Equal Rights Center deserves enormous credit for initiating this case—today’s outcome provides strong relief not just for DC residents, but for tenants across the country who may have fallen victim to these illegal, discriminatory practices.”

Under the terms of the three-year agreement with Adam’s Investment Group et al., Defendants have agreed to:

  • Make a $235,000 monetary payment to the ERC and the District for damages, attorneys’ fees, and a civil penalty.
  • Adopt Policy Changes: All Defendants are prohibited from discriminating based on source of income, including but not limited to refusing to accept vouchers and applying minimum income requirements to voucher holders, which is illegal under the new protections passed in 2022. The ERC contended that previously, Defendant Entrata, who provides call center services nationwide, allowed its clients to specify whether they would accept vouchers. As a result of the agreement announced today, it must ensure that all client files in jurisdictions where source of income discrimination is illegal provide that vouchers are accepted.
  • Undergo Training & Compliance Testing: All Defendants operating properties in the D.C. area must undergo an annual fair housing training. Defendants Barkan and Entrata will also undergo 20 compliance tests to ascertain the treatment afforded potential renters with vouchers.

The agreement with Adam’s Investment Group et al. came after D.C. Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz denied Defendants Entrata’s and Barkan’s Motions to Dismiss claims. In a first ruling on the question, the Court held that ERC has standing to sue under both the D.C. Human Rights Act (DCHRA) and D.C. Consumer Protections Procedures Act (DCCPPA).

ERC’s settlement agreement with Vaughan McLean, LLC, Capital Properties Management Services, LLC, and Capital Properties Services, LLC resolves a complaint ERC filed in U.S. District Court in June 2021. Through the agreement, Defendants represent that they do not own, manage, or have responsibility for leasing residential real estate units anymore. They also commit that if they acquire new residential rental real estate, they will not discriminate against any tenant on any of the bases prohibited by federal or local fair housing laws.

The ERC was represented in the matter against Adam’s Investment Group et al. by Handley Farah & Anderson. It was represented in the matter against Capital Properties Services, LLC, et al. by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs and Paul Hastings LLP.

The settlement agreements with Adams Investment Group et al. and Capital Properties Services, LLC, et al. are linked here and available on the ERC’s website.

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