DC property management company settles lawsuit alleging discrimination against potential tenants

A D.C.-based property management company has settled a lawsuit from the Equal Rights Center (ERC) accusing the company of discriminating against potential residents by denying them housing on illegal grounds.

ERC’s lawsuit accused AIR Property Management TRS, known as AIR Communities, of discriminating against voucher holders and using “overbroad eviction and criminal history screenings,” at two of its Northwest D.C. apartment complexes.

As part of the settlement, AIR Communities — which owns and manages Latrobe Apartment Homes in Logan Circle, Upton Place in Cathedral Heights and Vaughan Place in McLean Gardens — has agreed not to deny applicants based on criminal convictions more than seven years old and evictions more than three years old, in compliance with D.C. law.

The management company also agreed to not deny applicants because they use income-based housing subsidies to pay rent or consider credit scores for those using subsidies.

“These three forms of tenant screening practices are really pernicious ways to keep low income D.C. residents, predominantly residents of color, from having housing mobility and living in the communities of their choice,” said attorney Brian Corman, of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll.

Kate Scott, executive director of the ERC, also told WTOP that this settlement will hopefully help with the center’s goal of “chipping away at racial segregation, which is a long-standing, really important priority for the city.”

In a statement to WTOP, AIR said it’s committed to complying with all fair housing laws and regulations, and regularly reviews its standards.

“While a review by the Equal Rights Center identified some shortcomings in our processes, we want to emphasize that these were not errors of intentional commission but rather unintentional omission,” AIR said in its statement. “Upon our own review, we addressed the identified issues promptly, many of them before the ERC filed its complaint.”

AIR has also agreed, according to ERC, to revise its tenant screening policy and criteria to follow D.C. law and make sure those policies are followed by all employees screening resident applications. The management company will also ask prospective tenants to disclose their voucher status before running income and credit checks.

Scott said that the ERC will also help AIR Communities to annually re-train employees and check that they are following fair housing laws in the future.

“There’s also an aspect of the collaboration agreement that ensures us the ability to make sure that AIR Communities is complying with those policy changes,” Scott said. “So we’ll be providing training to them. And we will also be conducting compliance civil rights testing on a sort of spot checking basis to ensure that they’re complying with the new policies that they’ve enacted.”

WTOP’s Scott Gelman contributed to the report.

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Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

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