Anti-discrimination training ordered for Brooklyn landlord
A Brooklyn landlord has been ordered to pay $5,000 in damages and attend an anti-discrimination training course after the landlord’s agent refused to rent an apartment to a family on the grounds that the potential tenants had a child.
Mohamed Shabain owns residential property at 451 11th St. in Park Slope, Brooklyn. In February 2012, Adam DiLeo responded to a Craigslist ad announcing an available apartment in the 11th Street building. When DiLeo went to view the apartment, Shabain’s son-in-law, Najmuddin, answered the door and asked DiLeo basic questions including who would be the prospective tenants. DiLeo noted that he was searching for an apartment for himself, his wife and their unborn child at which point, DiLeo was told “No, no babies.”
New York law prevents the denial of a residential lease “because children are, may be or would be residing [in the residence].”
DiLeo was aware of this protection and advised Najmuddin of the illegality of his comment. At that point, according to DiLeo, Najmuddin attempted to tamp his previous statement by “mumbl[ing] something about dust … that dust is bad for babies.”
Najmuddin then shut the door refusing to show DiLeo the apartment.
A complaint was filed against Shabain seeking $10,000 in damages for DiLeo’s having to find a lesser apartment in Sunset Park. The Administrative Law Judge presiding over DiLeo’s complaint dismissed the case finding that Najmuddin was not the agent of the true landlord and was not acting with actual authority. According to ALJ Alessandra Zorgniotti, it was only expected that Najmuddin would have let DiLeo in. Najmuddin resided in the building and occupied the first floor apartment. The fact that the first floor tenant opened the front door for DiLeo “did not create an agency relationship,” wrote Zorgniotti. In fact, Najmuddin opened the door while in his pajamas, a style choice the judge believed should have altered DiLeo not to take Najmuddin’s word as that of the landlord.
DiLeo, not satisfied with Zorgniotti’s ruling, appealed to New York City Commission on Human Rights which disagreed with Zorgniotti’s opinion.
“We find that Najmuddin was [the landlord’s] agent,” the Commission noted.
The record indicated to the Commission that Najmuddin indeed had “express and apparent authority over entry to the building and, hence, the apartment.”
This conclusion was bolstered by Shabain’s testimony that he told Najmuddin to open the door if anybody came by. Finding that Najmuddin had authority to act as the landlord’s agent, any action by Najmuddin could legitimately be viewed as an action by the landlord. That Najuddin was inappropriately dressed in pajamas when he answered DiLeo was “irrelevant” noted the Commission.
In other words, if Najmuddin acted illegally in stopping DiLeo from renting the apartment on account of his soon- to be- delivered newborn child, that act can be imputed onto the landlord, making Shabain liable for Najmuddin’s illegal action.
It was not until DiLeo replied that he would be living with his wife and baby that Najmuddin denied DiLeo the apartment, the Commission gleaned from testimony. Shabain, through his agent Najmuddin, acted illegally by denying a lease because of the DiLeo’s child.
The Commission took the DiLeo’s present living situation into consideration when assessing appropriate damages. DiLeo testified to the “nightmare” of an apartment his family presently rents in Sunset Park. Due to the “theft of property” and “noise from the DiLeos’ neighbor’s banquet hall,” the Commission reached the conclusion that the DiLeos suffered a form of mental anguish as a result of the loss of Shabain’s apartment lease.
“The [DiLeos] suffered more than mere annoyance,” the Commission said.
For this anguish, DiLeo was awarded $5,000 in damages. The Commission also sought to provide a deterrence for future violations by Shabain and his agent Najmuddin and further ordered anti-discrimination training.
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