July 2, 2013
KAREN BROWN, Appellant,
MIDDLESEX MANAGEMENT, Respondent.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 5, 2013
On appeal from the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, Docket No. HM25WW-61947.
Karen Brown, appellant pro se.
Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney for respondent New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (Andrea M. Silkowitz, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Farng-Yi D. Foo, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Before Judges Waugh and St. John.
Appellant Karen Brown appeals from a decision of the Director of the Division on Civil Rights (Division) finding no probable cause to her allegations of discrimination based upon her race and intended use of a rent subsidy. Our examination of the record satisfies us that the Division's decision was properly premised on facts in the record and is consonant with relevant statutory provisions. Accordingly, we affirm.
The record discloses the following facts and procedural history leading to the determination under review.
In August 2010, Brown applied for an apartment at Homestead Village, an apartment complex managed by Middlesex Management (Management). Management refused Brown based upon negative information in a credit report generated by On-Site.com, the company Management utilizes for credit and background checks. Brown alleges that she contacted On-Site.com and was advised that Management would not rent to her based upon issues stemming from her Section 8 status.
On December 10, 2010, Brown filed a verified complaint with the Division alleging that Management refused her rental of an apartment because of her race and Section 8 rent subsidiary, in violation of N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(g). After an investigation, the Division determined on May 25, 2011, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 10:5-14 and N.J.A.C. 13:4-10.2(e), that there was no probable cause to credit the allegations of the complaint and it therefore closed Brown's file. It is from that decision that Brown appeals.
On appeal, Brown argues she was denied tenancy as a result of being discriminated against based on race, indigency, and disability, which she raises for the first time on appeal. We find insufficient merit in these arguments to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). We add only the following brief comments.
The Division's investigation led to the following findings:
The investigation did not substantiate [Brown's] claim that [Management] refused her rental of an apartment because of her race and/or rent subsidy. The investigation disclosed that [Brown] has been a participant in the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program administered by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) since 2007. There was no dispute that on August 31, 2010 [Brown] went to Homestead Village and submitted an application for rental of a two bedroom apartment for herself and 22 year old daughter. On the application, [Brown] indicated that she was not employed, but had an income of $725.25 per month. There was no dispute that [Brown] advised the rental agent that she had a Section 8 voucher which would pay a significant portion of her monthly rent. The investigation disclosed that in accordance with its practices and procedures for all applications, [Management] referred [Brown's] application to its screening service, On-Site.com. On September 2, 2010, On-Site returned [Brown's] application with a recommendation that it be declined based upon her income after debt, collections and evictions.
During the investigation, [Management] submitted a copy of [Brown's] application and all ancillary documents, including the background and credit reports On-Site utilized. A review of the report showed eviction actions filed against [Brown] in August, November and December 2006. A fourth action, filed against [Brown] in August 2008 resulted in a judgment for plaintiff, and [Brown] being locked out of the apartment. The report also showed two accounts in collection.
During the investigation, the Division's investigator reviewed applications [Management] received during the two months preceding [Brown's] rejection. All of the applicants accepted as tenants were given an acceptable rating by On-Site.com. Moreover, Respondent's documents, which included the tenant roster and Multiple Dwelling Reporting Rule (MDRR) reports, indicated that of the 77 leaseholders, 40 were Caucasian, 22 were Asian, 8 were Hispanic and 8 were Black. Moreover, [Management] submitted copies of Section 8 contracts for two of its current tenants. Finally, 15 of the 77 units are set aside for low and moderate income housing.
These findings amply supported the Division's conclusion that there was no probable cause to substantiate Brown's assertions. We agree with the Division, that
[i]nstead, the evidence supported [Management's] assertion that [Brown's] application was rejected due to negative items contained in the report from its screening service. In addition, the evidence indicated that [Brown] was treated in the same manner as other applicants who had received a negative rating from On-Site.com. Finally, the information gathered throughout the investigation, and in particular the MDRR report failed to demonstrate that
[Management] neither rented units on the basis of race or source of lawful income or rent subsidy.
We are therefore satisfied that the record supports the Division's finding that Brown's allegation lacked probable cause and that she was not discriminated against in violation of N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(g).