Press Releases

D.C. Civil Rights Group Settles Tenant Screening Discrimination Case Against Rental Property Management Company

Cohen Milstein

July 1, 2024

Settlement includes meaningful tenant screening policy reforms, training, and testing at several Northwest D.C. apartment buildings.

Settlement helps establish best practices for other housing providers and property management companies across D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C.–The Equal Rights Center (“ERC”) today announced that it has reached a Cooperation Agreement to resolve its housing discrimination lawsuit against AIR Property Management TRS, LLC (“AIR”) which manages several Washington D.C. apartment complexes in Northwest D.C. neighborhoods. The settlement includes reforms designed to ensure equal access for all applicants, including voucher holders, at Latrobe Apartment Homes in Logan Circle, Upton Place in Cathedral Heights, and Vaughan Place in McLean Gardens.

As part of the settlement, AIR agrees not to deny applicants on illegal bases, including having criminal records more than 7 years old and evictions more than 3 years old, as well as using income-based housing subsidies to pay for rent. In accordance with D.C. law, it also won’t consider credit scores for those using housing subsidies.

In addition, AIR has agreed to implement a number of measures to ensure a fair and equitable tenant screening process, including:

  • Revising its tenant screening policy and criteria as needed to comply with D.C. law, and distributing the policy to all employees involved in management and leasing of apartments, all employees involved in the screening of applicants for apartments, and all third-party screening companies engaged in the screening of applicants;
  • Requesting prospective tenants disclose their voucher status prior to the running of income and credit checks, and ensuring that all prospective tenant screening procedures comply with DC’s protections for voucher holders;
  • Ensuring all prospective tenant screening procedures comply with DC’s protections for people with prior evictions and people with criminal records;
  • Providing an annual ERC training program to all employees involved in the screening, leasing, and management functions;
  • Updating AIR’s website to list all eligibility criteria for housing applicants; and
  • Testing for compliance with the above provisions.

“Crafting and implementing equitable tenant screening policies are where the rubber hits the road in our work to undo the harms of racial segregation. That’s why we’re committed to leading efforts that result in such wide-ranging policy changes,” said Kate Scott, Equal Rights Center Executive Director. “We are thrilled to be able to work with AIR Communities collaboratively on these issues, and we look forward to helping AIR become a better role model in the D.C. neighborhoods where their properties are located.”

“The settlement reached today shows how one property management company can make a difference to make sure that tenant screening across the District is fair and equitable,” said Brian Corman, partner at Cohen Milstein, who helps lead the firm’s Fair Housing litigation efforts. “Housing vouchers help level the economic playing field, particularly for communities of color, and we are pleased that AIR Property Management is taking measures to further that goal.”

Earlier this year, ERC filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court against AIR Property Management, alleging the company discriminated against potential tenants using vouchers at two of its Northwest D.C. apartment complexes. The lawsuit also alleged AIR Property Management created unlawful barriers for applicants who have criminal records more than 7 years old and evictions more than 3 years old. As ERC explained in its lawsuit, the harm caused by these types of tenant screening practices are particularly acute for low-income and Black residents of the District.

Between 2022 and 2023, ERC conducted an investigation to determine whether AIR Property Management engaged in discriminatory and unlawful rental behaviors. The testing was in response to allegedly discriminatory statements on the Latrobe Apartment Homes and Vaughan Place websites, which stated that applicants would be disqualified based on felony convictions and previous evictions. These statements violated several of D.C.’s consumer protection and fair housing laws. ERC also discovered that applicants with government-issued vouchers faced unfair and unlawful requirements, including meeting minimum credit scores and income requirements.

The Housing Choice Voucher Program, formerly known as Section 8, is a federally funded housing subsidy program that currently provides rental and housing assistance to approximately 2 million families in the U.S. and 11,500 low-income families in D.C.. Under the program, Voucher holders are free to choose any housing in the rental market as long as it doesn’t exceed the monthly rental limit amounts of the program. The program’s intent is to eliminate barriers that would restrict these families from securing housing in neighborhoods with increased access to public transportation, grocery stores, and well-performing schools.

“The settlement reached today is a step in the right direction and puts a much-needed spotlight on policies that greatly limit options for people with criminal histories – an issue we have seen in the District for far too long,” said Joanna K. Wasik, Deputy Legal Director at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

ERC is represented by Brian Corman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, and Joanna K. Wasik of Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.


About Equal Rights Center

The ERC is a civil rights organization that identifies and seeks to eliminate unlawful and unfair discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations in its home community of Greater Washington D.C. and nationwide. The ERC’s core strategy for identifying unlawful and unfair discrimination is civil rights testing. When the ERC identifies discrimination, it seeks to eliminate it through the use of testing data to educate the public and business community, support policy advocacy, conduct compliance testing and training, and, if necessary, take enforcement action.

About Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll

Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, a premier U.S. plaintiffs’ law firm, with over 100 attorneys across eight offices, champions the causes of real people—workers, consumers, small business owners, investors, and whistleblowers—working to deliver corporate reforms and fair markets for the common good.

About Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs partners with community members and organizations on scores of cases to combat discrimination in housing, employment, education, immigration, criminal justice reform, public accommodations, based on race, gender, disability, family size, history of criminal conviction, and more. The Washington Lawyers’ Committee has secured a relentless stream of civil rights victories over the past five decades in an effort to achieve justice for all.