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Tenant Group Asks to Keep Third-Party Screening Suit Alive


December 21, 2022

Two Massachusetts renters and an advocacy group asked a federal judge not to dismiss their lawsuit against SafeRent Solutions LLC, saying they can prove the company’s scoring tool disproportionately denies housing to people of color by using credit scores.

Nancy Louis and Monica Douglas, along with Community Action Agency of Somerville Inc., told Judge Angel Kelley on Monday to deny SafeRent’s motion to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim and lack of jurisdiction. Louis and Douglas said their discrimination complaint clearly shows the company is in violation of both state and federal fair housing laws by creating an unnecessary barrier to accessing housing.

“[R]elying on such data in scoring potential tenants disproportionately impacts Black and Hispanic tenants, and those with low income, like those who use housing vouchers,” Louis and Douglas said in the memorandum filed Monday. “Black, Hispanic and low-income individuals all have lower credit scores and worse credit history compared to white individuals. That means that SafeRent assigns these groups disproportionately lower scores than white applicants, which, in turn, causes the disproportionate denial of housing.”

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The plaintiffs are represented by Todd S. Kaplan and Nadine Cohen of Greater Boston Legal Services, Christine E. Webber and Samantha N. Gerleman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, and Stuart T. Rossman, Charles M. Delbaum and Ariel C. Nelson of the National Consumer Law Center.

Read the article on Law360 (subscription required).