TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division on Civil Rights announced today that the Division has issued a Finding of Probable Cause (FPC) against a North Jersey real estate agency that allegedly failed to show a prospective renter an apartment on the basis of the renter’s national origin and spoken language.
KayMax Realty, Inc., the agency that handled the Bergen County rental unit, is listed as a Respondent in the Finding of Probable Cause along with the couple who owns the dwelling.
KayMax and the couple are accused of violating the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) in 2018 by declining to rent a four-bedroom apartment to prospective tenant Anna Ceylan, who was seeking to move to New Jersey from New York City, and by making statements indicating that they would only rent to a person who was Korean or spoke Korean.
The couple lived in one unit of their duplex and had advertised a basement apartment on Zillow.com as an available rental. The couple allegedly told their realtor, KayMax, of their desire to avoid renting to any person who did not speak Korean, and the agency allegedly adhered to their wishes.
“New Jersey law clearly prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin in rental housing,” said Attorney General Grewal. “There is simply no excuse for real estate professionals to engage in or cooperate with such conduct – tacitly or otherwise.”
“The Law Against Discrimination prohibits discriminatory utterances like those the realtor and the landlords are accused of making in this case,” said Director Wainer Apter. “Landlords cannot refuse to rent to tenants based on national origin. And because national origin is often inextricably intertwined with spoken language, a refusal to rent based on language can also violate the LAD.”
Ceylan saw the Zillow.com ad in mid-February 2018 and called KayMax to arrange a tour of the apartment, but the agent listed as the contact said she was too busy to talk and would call her back. When the promised return call did not materialize, Ceylan contacted another agent employed with a different real estate agency, who showed her the apartment.
Ceylan said she and her husband “fell in love with” the unit upon viewing it, but were never able to arrange a rental.
According to Ceylan, the agent who actually showed her the apartment related that the KayMax agent – the one listed in the Zillow.com ad as the contact -- had confided that the owners would not rent to a person who was not Korean.
Ceylan sought assistance from the Fair Housing Council of Northern New Jersey (FHCNNJ). FHCNNJ conducted telephone testing which showed that, as of March 2, 2018, the basement was no longer included as part of the apartment Ceylan had sought, and that the rent for that unit had been reduced. Four days later, the apartment Ceylan had sought was no longer available.
FHCNNJ subsequently referred the matter to the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, a Division within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD then referred it to the Division on Civil Rights in keeping with a cooperative work sharing agreement between HUD and the Division under HUD’s Fair Housing Assistance Program.
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 New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) has been violated.