A Bayonne landlord has paid $8,000 to a black woman in order to resolve allegations that she refused to rent her an apartment, The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights announced.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Donna Ferraro, of Bayonne, now must also submit to State monitoring of her rental practices, including reporting to the Division on all vacancies filled and her reasons for accepting/rejecting rental applicants, in addition to the monetary terms of the settlement.
“Landlords have a duty to treat all prospective tenants the same, and to give all eligible rental applications equal consideration,” said Division Director Craig T. Sashihara in a statement. “It is not only the right thing to do, it is the law, and we are committed to enforcing it.”
Aja Spooner, the complainant, alleges she saw an apartment-for-rent ad placed by Ferraro in a Hudson County newspaper in mid-March 2011.
She followed up by calling Ferraro from her place of employment. Spooner told Division investigators that, during the conversation, the two women agreed they would meet the next day and Spooner could tour the available rental unit.
Spooner alleged that as they were concluding the conversation, Ferraro told her she was being “very selective” in renting out the apartment, and did not intend to rent it to anyone African-American or Hispanic. Spooner said it was evident from their telephone conversation that Ferraro believed Spooner to be white.
Ferraro denied making discriminatory statements and told the Division on Civil Rights she had a history of renting to Hispanic tenants, and told them she had no memory of ever speaking with Spooner.
However, Spooner provided the Division with telephone records from her employer documenting a nearly-13-minute call to Ferraro’s number on March 15, 2011.
The Division subsequently issued a Finding of Probable Cause against Ferraro. Ferraro then filed a criminal complaint against Spooner – which was ultimately dismissed – charging that Spooner gave false information to a State agency.
In March 2012, Spooner filed a second complaint against Ferraro alleging retaliation in the form of unwarranted criminal charges.
The settlement announced today was reached by the parties through pre-trial mediation overseen by the Office of Administrative Law.
Under the settlement, Ferraro makes no admission of wrongdoing or liability, but must establish a system to maintain the records of all prospective tenants who complete applications for rental housing.
Through the end of calendar year 2016, Ferraro must notify the Division whenever one of her rental properties is available, and must provide the Division with a copy of any notices or advertisements designed to solicit rental applications.
Ferraro also must report to the Division each time one of her rental vacancies is filled, noting when the rental unit became available, how the vacancy was advertised, the number of applicants who sought the unit, and the reasons the successful applicant was chosen (as well as why the unsuccessful applicants were rejected).
Additionally, Ferraro must provide the Division with a copy of every application submitted for the vacancy, along with each rental applicant’s contact information.
Under the settlement, Spooner retains the right to pursue a retaliation claim in federal court concerning the dismissed criminal charges filed against her by Ferraro.