A Queens, N.Y., landlord agreed to pay nearly $1.2 million for wrongly refusing to rent apartments to people who were previously incarcerated, reports the New York Daily News. The deal, which resolves a 2014 lawsuit against owners of the Sand Castle apartment complex, was hailed by the Fortune Society as an important legal precedent. “This settlement fires a warning shot across the bow of any landlord in America who blanketly refuses to rent apartments to people with criminal justice involvement,” said Fortune Society CEO JoAnne Page.
The Fortune Society, a major provider of services for formerly incarcerated people, charged that the 917-unit apartment complex had a policy of automatically refusing to rent an apartment to a person with a criminal record, regardless of the nature of the conviction or the amount of time that had passed since the crime. It was unclear how many people were affected by Sand Castle’s ban on people who had done time. The society charged that Sand Castle violated the federal Fair Housing Act through the ban on ex-convicts, which they said disproportionately affected black and Hispanic people. The group said the settlement of $1,187,500 is one of the largest, if not the largest, ever in a lawsuit involving similar allegations. “When housing providers deny basic rights to those who have been formerly incarcerated, they are imposing harsh limitations on where these individuals can live and work which perpetuate poverty and segregation, and dramatically increase the likelihood that they will return to prison,” said Fortune Society attorney John Relman.