A Latino family who was rejected for a two-bedroom apartment in San Rafael reached a settlement in a discrimination complaint against the landlord.
The complainants are Adan Bernardino Peralta, his wife and two children. They were represented by San Rafael-based Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California.
They filed the complaint against the Continuum Housing Association-San Rafael Redevelopment Agency. The apartment in question was at the Lone Palm Court building at 840 C St.
The settlement was reached late last month. Continuum Housing Association agreed to pay $18,000 to the complainants; attend two annual fair housing training sessions; list the rental property with San Rafael-based Canal Alliance and tacolist.com; post U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s fair housing posters in English and Spanish; and send HUD’s fair housing brochures in English and Spanish to all residents.
Caroline Peattie, executive director of San Rafael-based Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California. (James Cacciatore/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)“We are pleased that Continuum Housing Associates agreed to mediate so we could arrive at a settlement,” said Caroline Peattie, executive director of Fair Housing Advocates, in a released statement. “Mr. Peralta was able to have a forum where he could speak about his experience and the injury he had suffered and feel that he was heard.”
Peattie said the settlement was the result of an administrative complaint filed in August with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing after a months long investigation by Fair Housing Advocates. It looked into the circumstances surrounding Peralta’s unsuccessful application for a two-bedroom apartment at Lone Palm Court in August 2017.
Peralta, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Mexico, said in the complaint that the Lone Palm Court manager at first took his application, but then later returned it and the money order for the application fee. The manager told Peralta that the reason for the return was that Peralta’s wife, who was born in Colombia but who was a U.S. resident with a valid tourist visa, did not submit U.S.-based identification.
The manager allegedly refused to accept the identification that Peralta presented.
“He was provided with a flyer that said that applications would not be processed if it did not include U.S.-based identification, with examples of such identification listed as a U.S. driver’s license, U.S. picture ID card, U.S. passport, or a U.S. employment authorization card,” according to Peattie’s statement.
As a result of the incident, Peattie said, Peralta’s wife no longer felt secure enough to continue living in the U.S., despite having a valid visa, and was so discouraged at her prospects for finding housing as a non-citizen that she returned to Colombia in early September 2017. Since that time, Peattie said, Peralta and his wife have been separated, and she does not plan to return to the U.S.
“Our separation caused a great strain on our marriage,” Peralta said in the statement, “and the stress of being turned down plus the separation really affected me. What makes it worse is that I had to rent a one-bedroom for more rent at a different property, so I lost money.”
When Fair Housing contacted the apartment complex, one of the rental agents allegedly said the property sought by Peralta was already rented and that the denial of Peralta’s application was based on his failure to qualify based upon income. Peralta asserted that he did qualify for the low-income unit based upon his income, Peattie said.
“FHANC conducted multiple investigations of the premises in 2017 and 2018 for national origin discrimination,” Peattie said. “Those investigations confirmed that the manager consistently refused to rent to individuals without a U.S. form of identification, discouraging prospective renters at the pre-application stage and refusing to accept alternate forms of identification.”
Peattie said the agency ran several “tests” using renters with various alternate forms of valid identification, such as an international driving permit.
“We were very concerned after we had talked with Mr. Peralta about his situation, and even more concerned once we looked at the evidence of discrimination our investigation uncovered,” Peattie said. “This differential treatment effectively discourages potential applicants who are not born in the United States or do not have a U.S. passport, despite the fact that they have the legal status to live here.”
After the complaint was filed in August, Continuum Housing Association agreed to mediation, leading to the settlement in late October.
“I really appreciate the help I got from Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California,” Peralta said. “They gave me help when I was down and didn’t know what to do.”
Continuum Housing Association representatives could not be reached Friday.