Long Island Housing Services (LIHS), Suffolk Independent Living Organization (SILO) and four individual Complainants settled complaints of housing discrimination on the basis of Disability and/or Source of Income against The Cassata Organization Family Limited Partnership, Cassata Holding Company LLC, Oakwood Manor LLC, Nu Horizons LLC, and Michele Cassata (Respondents).
Respondents have multiple apartment complexes in Suffolk County, New York.
In 2019, LIHS received allegations of source of income and disability discrimination against Oakwood Manor, a Bay Shore apartment complex owned by Respondents. SILO reported allegations of disability and source of income discrimination to LIHS against Respondents after they allegedly refused to accept SILO’s clients as tenants. Additionally, SILO was allegedly told by the Respondents that they were no longer accepting applications from their organization. In addition, four individual complainants filed allegations of disability and source of income discrimination against the Respondents, after being denied housing at Oakwood Manor and Nu Horizons, a Copiague apartment complex owned by Respondents.
As part of the investigation, LIHS’ testers posed as ordinary home seekers to document the treatment they experienced in order for LIHS to determine compliance with fair housing laws.
Source of Income Discrimination Investigation
LIHS’ testing and investigation revealed evidence that testers posing as persons having a Housing Voucher were told that Housing Vouchers were not accepted. Testers posing as individuals with Housing Vouchers were not told about available apartments and were not able to view them.
A LIHS tester depicted as having a Department of Social Services One-Shot Deal was also told that One-Shot Deal was not accepted. The One-Shot deal program provides financial assistance to low-income individuals in need of funds to cover the security deposit.
In comparison, the evidence demonstrated that testers without an alternative source of income were told about available apartments and were able to view the available apartments on-site. A difference in treatment based on the protected class of source of income is illegal housing discrimination protected under fair housing and human rights laws.
New York State, Suffolk, and Nassau County Human Rights Laws prohibit discrimination based on a lawful source of income. Source of income discrimination occurs when a housing provider refuses to accept a lawful source of income, including, but not limited to, Supplemental Social Income (SSI), Social Security Disability (SSD), Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, Nursing Home Transition and Diversion (NHTD) Housing Subsidy, Olmstead Housing Subsidy (OHS), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Medicaid Waiver program, or child support.
Disability Discrimination Investigation
Additionally, evidence was found that LIHS testers with disabilities were treated differently and unfairly compared to LIHS’ testers without a disability. A tester looking for housing for an individual with disabilities was falsely told that there was no available unit. A tester without disabilities was told about an available unit and was able to view the unit. The federal Fair Housing Act, New York State Human Rights Law, and Suffolk County Human Rights Law all prohibit housing discrimination based on disability.
Reinforcing Fair Housing Rights
LIHS negotiated a settlement agreement in which Respondents would make policy changes that include monetary damages, adopt a non-discriminatory fair housing policy, display compliance with fair housing laws, and provide fair housing training to their employees and agents.
“After having a Source of Income Discrimination Law in Suffolk since 2015, and passed statewide in 2019, there is no excuse for housing providers openly violating the law. We need to institute regulation of rental properties on the same level that the state has instituted it to prevent real estate agents from violating fair housing laws. Housing providers need strong education requirements, clear policies, and strong penalties to ensure that the law is obeyed,” said Ian Wilder, LIHS Executive Director.
As part of the settlement agreement with Respondents, SILO received monetary damages.
“SILO’s intent is to ensure our society is totally accessible to people with disabilities. Total accessibility means people with disabilities must be afforded the same opportunities as everyone in our community. Disability or an individual’s source of income should not impede a disabled person attain a place to live. At SILO we are committed to preventing housing and source of income discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” said Joseph M. Delgado, Chief Executive Officer of Suffolk Independent Living Organization.
The four individual complainants who filed against Respondents also settled their complaints and received monetary damages.
People who believe that they have experienced housing discrimination in Nassau or Suffolk Counties, can contact Long Island Housing Services, Inc. at 631-567-5111 ext. 375
Hablamos Español 631-567-5111 Ext. 378 or email@example.com
Founded in 1969, Long Island Housing Services’ mission is the elimination of unlawful discrimination and promotion of decent and affordable housing through advocacy and education LIHS is a private, nonprofit HUD-qualified Fair Housing Enforcement Organization and a federally certified, approved Housing Counseling agency. (www.LIFairHousing.org)
Suffolk Independent Living Organization (SILO) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, consumer-controlled, non-residential, civil rights, mentoring, and educational organization which has been providing programs and services to people with disabilities in Suffolk County since 1985.
The Fair Housing enforcement and advocacy work of LIHS is supported through grants from the Fair Housing Initiatives Program of the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development. The Fair Housing enforcement and advocacy work is also supported by the Suffolk County Office of Housing and Community Development and Town of Islip Office of Housing and Community Development and the Town of Babylon Community Development Program, which provide support for LIHS’ housing counseling and fair housing efforts with federal pass-through funds of HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program.
The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.