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Relman, Dane & Colfax Settles Housing Voucher Discrimination Case Against Travelers Indemnity Company

On February 20, 2018 Travelers Indemnity Company entered into a settlement requiring that it insure properties in Washington, D.C. without regard to whether tenants in those properties are Housing Choice Voucher holders, and refrain from inquiring whether such tenants receive government assistance in connection with eligibility, pricing, or underwriting decisions. Travelers will also pay $450,000 in damages and attorneys' fees, and provide training to employees involved in the sale or underwriting of insurance for area rental properties.

The settlement resolves a May 2016 lawsuit Relman, Dane & Colfax filed under the Fair Housing Act and the D.C. Human Rights Act on behalf of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The lawsuit was filed following an extensive investigation by NFHA where testers posing as District landlords inquired about Travelers insurance coverage for buildings where some units were rented to Voucher holders. Testers were repeatedly told that Travelers would not insure their properties because of the Voucher tenants. The lawsuit alleged that, because the vast majority of Voucher holders in the District are African American and female, Travelers's practices had an unjustified disparate impact based on race and gender. The complaint further asserted that Travelers's policies violated the D.C. Human Rights Act's prohibition on discrimination based on source of income.

Travelers sought to dismiss the lawsuit, challenging whether NFHA could make out a disparate impact claim. Travelers's motion was denied in full in a thorough opinion issued by Judge John D. Bates in the fall of 2017, which reinforced disparate impact theory, reaffirmed that insurers can face Fair Housing Act liability, and confirmed that statistical disparities like those alleged by NFHA could support a disparate impact claim.

The firm's litigation team was led by Megan Cacace, Steve Dane, and Joe Wardenski, with assistance from Morgan Williams of NFHA.