A group of eight New Yorkers are suing a Bronx real estate company for allegedly refusing to accept housing vouchers as payment for rent.
The lawsuit against Chestnut Holdings, a management company that manages more than 6,000 apartments in 134 buildings in the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn, was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court last month.
“Because I held a voucher, I was hardly seen as an equal to those who had work,” said Mallery Morrison, 39, who tried to get an apartment in a Chestnut apartment building in the Bronx in 2018 .
His voucher was worth over $1,500 a month, which would have fully covered the rent. But when she told a broker at a Chestnut building that she would pay with the voucher, the woman ended the conversation.
“Oh, we don’t take them,” Morrison recalled, the woman saying on the phone.
The humiliating experience came at a low point in Morrison’s life.
Along with a new diagnosis of thyroid cancer, Morrison and her husband faced eviction after falling from scaffolding and losing their construction jobs.
Morrison’s experience is part of a larger pattern with Chestnut Holdings, according to tenant attorneys at Legal Services NYC.
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“We believe there is a policy and practice of this management company not to rent to people who have housing vouchers,” said Jean Fischman, who is representing the tenants in the case. “It’s incredibly ubiquitous in New York. We see it with landlords big and small.
Under New York City human rights law, it is illegal for landlords not to accept vouchers that the city or federal government provides to low-income New Yorkers to help them stay out of homeless shelters.
For Harvey Lindo, 68, the discrimination was a little less blatant, but amounted to the same denial, he said.
When he tried to rent a Chestnut apartment in 2019, the broker never called him back after saying he would pay all of his rent with a voucher – even though she said he should be called back that day -the.
“Once you say you have a voucher, the whole story changes,” said Lindo, who lived in homeless shelters from 2016 to 2018. estate agent to see if the apartment is still vacant. They said they would call me back and I would never hear back.
This is the second time Chestnut Holdings has been sued over similar allegations. In 2018, a woman sued the company saying she refused to accept her federal Section 8 housing bond. The company was eventually dropped from that lawsuit.
The company has denied the new charges, saying it has hundreds of tenants using vouchers. “The claims are completely without merit,” said Russell Shank, a lawyer for the company, adding that they had not received applications from seven of the eight people involved.