This op-ed piece by DCA Commissioner Jane M. Kenny describes New Jersey's fair housing laws.
A young African-American man responds to an advertisement for an apartment. When he arrives he is informed that the unit has just been rented.
A landlord informs a family with young children that he only rents to adults.
The rental agent at an apartment complex tells a disabled person that no handicap-accessible units are available.
This is a small sample of the types of housing discrimination complaints investigated in New Jersey each year.
Discrimination can be blatant, and it can be subtle, but it is always illegal. Now, by calling a toll-free number set up by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, people can obtain information about the state's fair housing laws and how to file a complaint.
That number, 1-800-390-4845, is part of a statewide effort that the Department of Community Affairs has launched to inform citizens as well as landlords and others in the housing industry about New Jersey's fair housing laws.
It is against the law to refuse to rent or sell housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status or disability. It is also illegal to discriminate against a prospective tenant on the basis of sexual orientation, or to refuse to rent an apartment to someone because the person will be paying with a Section 8 voucher.
People calling the Department of Community Affairs toll-free number can get answers to their questions about housing discrimination. They can also obtain a new brochure, available in English and Spanish, describing the state's fair housing laws and the process for filing a complaint.
As part of its awareness campaign, DCA will also be hosting workshops for landlords and property managers about the fair housing law and ensuring equal opportunity and airing a public service announcement about housing discrimination.
DCA's website www.state.nj.us/dca, offers additional resources on tenants rights. A free DCA publication called "Truth-in-Renting" is available describing responsibilities of residential landlords and tenants. Another publication, "Tenants Rights in New Jersey," written by Legal Services of New Jersey, is also available through DCA's website. It covers a broad range of rental issues such as finding a place to live, security deposits, leases, rent increases, the responsibilities of landlords and tenants, and the right to safe and decent housing.
DCA wants to make sure that people know their rights. We also want to see that New Jersey's strict laws against discrimination is enforced.
Housing discrimination complaints in New Jersey can be carried out by the state Department of Law and Public Safety, as well as by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Information about the complaint process and contact numbers for those two agencies can also be obtained by calling DCA's toll-free number.
Senior Policy Advisor
NJ Dept. of Community Affairs