Three real estate firms will pay millions after settling in a housing discrimination lawsuit brought forward by the D.C. attorney general’s office.
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced Thursday that three companies — DARO Management Services, DARO Realty, and Infinity Real Estate — had agreed to pay $10 million in civil penalties over a 2020 suit alleging the firms hit recipients of housing assistance with extra fees and discriminatory rental policies.
In a statement, Racine’s office said the $10 million payout would be the largest civil penalty from a U.S. housing discrimination case.
“This case should send a strong message that if you break the law and discriminate against renters who use housing subsidies, you will face serious consequences,” Racine said.
According to the suit, 15 properties managed by DARO or related entities in Northwest D.C. made it difficult for low-income families to seek out housing with subsidies from the federally-funded Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8.
An investigation by OAG’s civil rights section turned up emails between DARO executives that discussed standards to keep voucher holders from qualifying for rentals.
“Off the record I am doing everything I can to reduce if not eliminate the section 8 program from our communities,” wrote DARO Management President Carissa Barry, who was among several company executives named as defendants. “We have tightened our screening criteria as much as humanly possible.”
In addition to paying $10 million for illegal housing discrimination, DARO will dissolve its property management arm, Daro Management Services, and hand off management of its properties to a third-party. Barry, who serves as an executive at the companies, will be barred from holding a D.C. real estate license for the next 15 years.
At a Thursday news conference, D.C. officials welcomed the settlement as a victory for low-income families and fair housing in the nation’s capital.
“This is just huge,” Council member Elissa Silverman said. “It’s also an effective deterrent to other housing providers … if you have a voucher, you have every right to live in a home in this city, and you cannot be discriminated against.”