TRENTON, NJ - A Probable Cause judgement has been made against a Morris County duplex owner for engaging in unlawful discrimination by refusing to accept a black man's rental application based on his race and by seeking to bar children from the rental unit, announced Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division on Civil Rights (DCR).
The landlord, Adrienne Brown is accused of rejecting the application of prospective tenant Timothy Jenkins in December 2016, said the Attorney General's Office in a press release.
According to authorities, a six-day series of email exchanges took place between Brown, Brown’s real estate agent and would-be tenant Jenkins. The emails involved negotiations over Jenkins’ prospective rental of a Morristown property owned by Brown. One of the sticking points was Jenkins’ refusal to sign a lease addendum which, among other terms, barred children from occupying the rental unit. Brown’s own agent told Brown she would not sign the addendum, which would violate New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) by seeking to bar children, stated the release.
Brown made unsolicited references to the fact Jenkins is Black in three separate emails to her agent, the DCR investigation showed.
The press release stated that in one of those emails, she appeared to blame the agent for the protracted nature of the talks. Specifically, Brown suggested that, because Jenkins is Black, the agent “may have been reluctant” to strike a strong negotiating posture with him “and thus we have both been exposed to an unwarranted delay and a good deal of back and forthing. Brown ultimately rented the property to two white applicants. She refused to be interviewed by DCR about the case.
”There’s no place for housing discrimination in New Jersey, based on race or on any other protected characteristic,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We are committed to rooting it out, whether that means educating first-time landlords on compliance with our anti-discrimination laws, taking on implicit bias, or eradicating redlining.”
“Race discrimination in housing, whether explicit or implicit, is illegal in New Jersey,” said Division on Civil Rights Director Rachel Wainer Apter. “A prospective tenant’s race is simply not relevant to a rental inquiry. It is also illegal to refuse to rent to a family with children, or to attempt to get a prospective tenant to sign an agreement that bars families with children. Landlords and real estate agents who would like further information on fair housing laws in New Jersey should contact our office.”
A Finding of Probable Cause does not resolve a civil rights complaint. Rather, it means the State has concluded its preliminary investigation and determined there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion the LAD has been violated.