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Salute v. Stratford Greens

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiffs sued Defendant because Defendant refused to rent to them because they were Section 8 participants, which violates the United States Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(t)(1)(A). One of the Plaintiff asks for a preliminary injunction requiring Defendant to rent her an apartment because she will lose her Section 8 certificate if she does not secure housing by June 1, 1995.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Once a landlord has rented to tenants who are certified to receive Section 8 rent subsidies, the landlord may not subsequently refuse prospective tenants on the ground that they are Section 8 participants.

    Facts.

    Richard Salute and Marie Kravette (Plaintiffs) are disabled persons as defined by law. Plaintiffs attempted to rent apartments from Stratford Greens (Defendant), and were refused because they were participants in Section 8, a federal program that subsidizes rent payments for certified disabled persons. Plaintiffs sued Defendant, claiming inter alia that the refusal to rent violated the United States Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(t)(1)(A). Under § 1437f(t)(1)(A), landlords are not required to participate in Section 8, but landlords who have rented apartments to Section 8 participants may not subsequently refuse to rent to prospective tenants on the ground that they are Section 8 participants. Defendant’s current Section 8 tenants had signed leases with Defendant before they enrolled in Section 8, and Defendant argues that it has not chosen and does not want to participate in Section 8. Defendant argues that it is unfair to require it to participate in Section 8, and that requiring it to participate in Section 8 will encourage other landlords to oust tenants who enroll in Section 8. Because Kravette will lose her Section 8 certificate if she does not secure housing by June 1, 1995, she asks for a preliminary injunction requiring Defendant to rent her an apartment.

    Issue.

    Whether a landlord may refuse prospective tenants solely on the ground that they are Section 8 participants if the landlord currently has tenants who participate in Section 8.

    Held.

    No. Defendant is ordered to rent Kravette an apartment beginning on June 1, 1995. Once a landlord has rented to tenants who are certified to receive Section 8 rent subsidies, the landlord may not subsequently refuse prospective tenants on the ground that they are Section 8 participants.

    Discussion.

    This is an unambiguous requirement of the United States Housing Act. Defendant asks the Court to read an exception into the statute: that a landlord’s decision to allow pre-existing tenants who enroll in Section 8 to remain does not obligate the landlord to accept new Section 8 tenants. There is no language in the statute to support this exception, and Defendant cites no authority for it. The policy arguments raised by Defendant (that the lack of an exception will encourage landlords to oust tenants who may become disabled) are best left for the legislature to consider. Defendant has already rented to Section 8 tenants, so it cannot refuse to rent to Kravette because of her Section 8 participation. Kravette is entitled to a preliminary injunction because she has shown that she will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of injunctive relief and that she will likely succeed on the merits. If she does not secure housing by June 1, 1995, she will lose her Section 8 certificate. 


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