The Barbara of Capitol Hill, one of the apartment buildings owned by real estate company Evolve, LLC. Photo courtesy of Google Maps
A local real estate company the District sued in 2018 for housing discrimination against potential tenants will have to pay a $250,000 penalty to resolve the lawsuit, Attorney General Karl Racine announced last Tuesday.
The company, Evolve, LLC, was sued by Racine’s office for discriminating against housing voucher recipients by denying them opportunities to view properties and stating in advertisements that it did not accept vouchers as payment for rent.
Under the D.C. Human Rights Act, discrimination based on source of income is illegal, prohibiting landlords from refusing to lease to tenants who plan to use housing vouchers.
“This victory reaffirms that landlords will face consequences for discriminating against vulnerable District residents who use housing assistance to pay their rent,” Racine said in a release. “The Office of the Attorney General will enforce the District’s consumer protection and anti-discrimination laws to ensure landlords treat all tenants fairly, regardless of their source of income.”
A September 2018 study published by the Urban Institute found that approximately 15% of D.C. landlords that were surveyed denied housing voucher recipients. Though the rate of voucher denials was far lower than in other cities, such as 31% in Newark and 67% in Philadelphia, the study found that the District could “improve enforcement of its laws and provide better incentives to landlords to participate in the voucher program.”
In February 2020, the D.C. Superior Court ruled that Evolve had violated both the D.C. Human Rights Act and the Consumer Protection Procedures Act, since the first violation had occurred “in the context of a consumer transaction.”
As part of the terms agreed to by Evolve, the company will have to conduct anti-discrimination training for all employees or contractors involved in leasing its properties to tenants and implement written policies for employees about complying with D.C. law. Evolve must also cease any advertisements that indicate the company does not accept housing vouchers and must now include language clarifying that it does lease to voucher recipients on all advertisements, notices, and its website.
District residents who wish to report housing discrimination can submit a tip to the Office of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Section online or call the office at (202) 727-3400.