Lambda Sues Landlord, Broker For Refusing to Rent to Same-Sex Couples

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In Park Slope, a "disturbing pattern' of discrimination against lesbian and gay renters
February 16, 2000

(NEW YORK, February 16, 2000) -- Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund on Tuesday filed suit against a Brooklyn landlord and a real estate agent for refusing to rent a Park Slope apartment to two men because they are gay.

According to the lawsuit filed in Kings County Supreme Court, the property owner, Harold Vinje of Vinje Realty, and the broker, F.J. Kazeroid Realty Group, rejected the gay couple’s application for a vacant one-bedroom apartment, and then, during an investigation by the Open Housing Center, repeatedly turned away others posing as gay prospective renters.

“A prejudiced landlord and a complicit realtor turned away qualified applicants solely on the basis of sexual orientation. This disturbing pattern of discrimination is illegal and must not be tolerated,” said Lambda Staff Attorney Marvin C. Peguese, who represents the plaintiffs in Beaton, et al. v. Vinje Realty and F. J. Kazeroid Realty Group. The lawsuit charges the landlord and realtor with violating the New York City Human Rights Law, which prohibits, among others, housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The plaintiffs, 21-year-old Gabriel Beaton and 24-year-old Philip Alberti, were the first to respond to the apartment’s listing posted last October on the window of the F.J. Kazeroid office. Shortly after seeing the apartment, the couple filled out an application and left an $1,800 deposit with the broker. But the landlord abruptly canceled the lease-signing appointment, and the agent later told Beaton and Alberti that the landlord was unwilling to rent the one-bedroom apartment to two men.

“Our credit was good, we were the first to apply, and we put up the deposit. The only reason we were rejected is because we’re gay,” said Beaton. He added, “This kind of thing isn’t supposed to happen in Park Slope and shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere else. The broker even had the nerve to ask us not to take the landlord’s homophobia as a reflection on her agency.”

After the couple’s application was denied, the Center, which investigates complaints of housing discrimination, sent several people to inquire about the same apartment. Those posing as same-sex couples were told the space was too small for two people, while those applying as non-gay couples were enthusiastically shown the apartment. The broker even told one woman inquiring as part of a different-sex couple that the landlord would not mind a couple, or even a couple with a child. The Center is also named as a plaintiff.

“Gay and lesbian people need to know that, like all New Yorkers, they are protected from housing discrimination under the New York City Human Rights Law, especially when there are landlords and brokers out there who think they can get away with unlawfully picking and choosing renters,” said the Center’s Executive Director Karen Webber. The Center is a fair housing agency promoting equal housing opportunity in the New York metropolitan area.

Beaton and Alberti eventually found another apartment in the neighborhood. Lambda is seeking compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the couple as well as a permanent injunction to prohibit the landlord and broker from discriminating against other lesbian and gay couples.

Lambda is the nation’s oldest and largest gay legal group, headquartered in New York and with regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta.

(Beaton, et al v. Vinje Realty Corp., F.J. Kazeroid Realty Group, Inc.)

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Contact: Lambda - Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x 230, 888-987-1984 (pager); Marvin C. Peguese 212-809-8585 x 213
OHC - Karen Webber 212-231-7080


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