The Times of Trenton reported Thursday that Denise Bell, a disabled and unemployed New Jersey resident, sought a unit at Sunnybrae Apartments of Yardville. Bell receives federal Social Security Disability income and rental help through the New Jersey State Rental Assistance Program.
Sunnybrae, which is under the auspices of Tower Management Services, requires that prospective tenants have a minimum income threshold of $28,000 per year for accommodation. Bell failed to meet the income threshold, and her application was denied.
Bell sued Tower Management Services in 2007, alleging that the landlord violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) by denying housing to tenants whose income falls below the stated threshold but who can afford rental obligations with state-provided assistance.
The following year, a judge in Superior Court dismissed Bell's lawsuit on grounds that the landlord's position was lawful. The court also rejected the plaintiff's assertion that Sunnybrae's minimum income requirement impacted its decision to deny her application.
Bell appealed to the Appellate Division in March.
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"A liberal interpretation of the LAD dictates that, so long as prospective tenants can demonstrate that they have sufficient income to pay their individual portions of the rent not covered by their rental assistance vouchers, they should not be held to an income standard that bears no rational or reasonable relationship" to their ability to pay, asserts the Division on Civil Rights' amicus brief.
"There was no reason to deny (Denise Bell) the right to rent an available apartment since she had sufficient income to meet her personal rent obligation for that part of the rent not covered by voucher payments."