On February 1, 2024, Equal Rights Center (ERC) filed a consumer protection lawsuit against AIR Communities, L.P., Rhode Island 15 LP, dba Latrobe Apartment Homes, and Vaughan Place, LLC, for their use of discriminatory policies and practices that create unlawful barriers for applicants in the District of Columbia using housing vouchers and applicants with stale eviction and criminal background histories.
ERC claims that Latrobe Apartments and Vaughn Place state on their websites and implement unlawful rental application requirements, including minimum credit scores and income requirements for voucher holders, along with overbroad eviction history and criminal record screenings in violation of the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act (DCCPPA), as well as the D.C. Human Rights Act (DCHRA), the D.C. Rental Housing Act, and the D.C. Fair Criminal Record Screening for Housing Act of 2016 (DCFCRSHA), which underlie additional claims brought under DCCPPA.
Because the ERC has a sufficient nexus to the interests involved of the class of consumers—individuals seeking housing in the District—to adequately represent those interests, ERC is bringing this suit on behalf of such individuals who may not be aware of such injustices and/or do not have the means to access counsel to address such injustices before the court.
Housing vouchers, including the federal government’s Housing Choice Vouchers, are of critical importance in the District of Columbia, allowing thousands of low-income families to obtain safe, decent, and affordable housing in the neighborhoods of their choice. They are also critical to helping the District reduce racial and ethnic segregation in its neighborhoods, thereby increasing economic mobility throughout the District.
Recognizing this important goal, vouchers are a protected source of income under the DCHRA. It is unlawful to discriminate against someone based on source of income, including denying housing to applicants because of their use of a voucher or implementing unnecessary credit and other background screening requirements on such applicants. In addition, the District has enacted legislation protecting all rental housing applicants from overbroad screening requirements based on prior evictions and criminal records.
In this case, the ERC claims that through statements made on their respective websites and in recorded fair housing tests conducted by ERC, Defendants made the following statements: (1) Latrobe Apartment Homes did not have any apartment units available for applicants using vouchers, despite having available apartments for other renters; (2) voucher holders must meet minimum credit score requirements at Latrobe Apartment Homes and Vaughan Place to be approved for apartments at those complexes; (3) voucher holders must meet minimum income requirements at Latrobe Apartment Homes and Vaughan Place to be approved for apartments at those complexes; (4) sealed eviction records and/or evictions filed three or more years ago may be grounds to deny individuals applying to Latrobe Apartment Homes and Vaughan Place; and (5) a criminal history, even if more than seven years old, may be grounds to deny individuals applying to Latrobe Apartment Homes and Vaughan Place.
Accordingly, the ERC brings this action to vindicate its consumer protection rights and the consumer protection rights of those it represents under the DCCPPA, and to obtain an injunction and damages—including statutory and treble damages under the DCCPPA—to remedy those injuries.