Two Buffalo landlords made it easy for the state to nail them for housing discrimination: They stated in their online ads that they wouldn’t rent to anyone getting government assistance.
That violation of Buffalo’s fair housing law landed Patrick Guidice and Francis Pleto in the cross hairs of State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who is expected to announce fines against the landlords today as part of a settlement agreement.
Neither landlord could be reached to comment Tuesday.
The City of Buffalo has a 2006 ordinance that prohibits discrimination against prospective tenants on the basis of lawful source of income. That includes discrimination against those who receive government vouchers, as well those who earn income through any legitimate job.
But during a probe by the Attorney General’s Office, Guidice – who owns and manages five apartments in the city’s Niagara and North districts – told an undercover investigator seeking to rent one of his apartments that he would not accept government subsidies.
Several advertisements that Guidice posted on Craigslist in April 2012 also stated: “Sorry do not except (sic) government assisted rental,” or “Sorry but at this time government assisted rental organizations are not excepted (sic),” according to the Attorney General’s Office.
From May 2012 through May 2013, Guidice posted at least 11 advertisements on Craigslist that read: “Private pay only;” “Private Pay only, no Government Assistance;” or “Private Personal Pay Only, Do Not Except (sic) Public Funds for Rent.”
The probe found that Guidice had not rented to any individuals using government subsidies in the last three years.
Pleto, who owns and manages eight apartments, told an undercover investigator that he would not accept Section 8 vouchers as payment for rent at any of his units.
Online advertisements posted by Pleto also asserted that he did not accept government subsidies. In a Craigslist ad he posted in August 2013, Pleto wrote: “Don’t except (sic) Belmont,” referring to Section 8 vouchers issued by Belmont Housing Resources for WNY.
The attorney general’s investigation found Pleto avoided renting to anyone receiving government subsidies over the past three years.
In a prepared statement, Schneiderman said his office is committed to upholding regulations to ensure that all New Yorkers have equal access to housing.
“No one should be turned away from an apartment based on a lawful income source, and we will continue to fight to ensure that everyone is treated equally under the law, regardless of race, ethnicity or income,” Schneiderman said.
“Today’s settlements will ensure that many more aspiring homeowners – from Buffalo to New York City – will have a fair shot at a home and that their rights will be protected,” Schneiderman said.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, source-of-income discrimination often coincides with other forms of housing discrimination. For instance, discrimination against Section 8 voucher holders increases if the recipient is African-American or Latino, particularly if they are women. As of last year, female-headed households accounted for 76 percent of all government vouchers issued in New York.
Section 8 Rental Assistance – the federal voucher program that provides rental housing subsidies to private landlords on behalf of millions of those with low incomes – is one example of a lawful source of income protected under Buffalo’s 2006 anti-housing discrimination ordinance.
Other legal sources of income include Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance or earnings from seasonal employment.
“People who receive government assistance have as much of a right to rent an apartment as tenants who do not need to rely on vouchers,” said Donna Eason, associate director at Housing Opportunities Made Equal, which helps victims of housing discrimination across the Buffalo region.
“Unlawful source-of-income discrimination deprives law-abiding citizens of the ability to find a home,” Eason said as part of the statement released by the Attorney General’s Office.