Relman, Dane & Colfax is pleased to announce the settlement of a lawsuit, filed in June 2019, against the owner and management company of Sterling Glen Apartments in Chesterfield County, Virginia. The suit, brought by Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc. (HOME), challenged Sterling Glen's policy of rejecting applicants with criminal backgrounds, including a blanket ban of anyone with a felony conviction, as racially discriminatory.
As part of the settlement, Sterling Glen has agreed to revamp its policy on criminal record screening. The revised policy only considers specific categories of offenses using a five year look back period, excludes all arrests, misdemeanor convictions and vacated or reversed convictions, and does not treat people differently based on whether the applicant is on probation or parole. Most importantly, the policy assures individualized consideration for every applicant with a history of specific felony convictions. This process allows prospective tenants to share information with Sterling Glen as part of the application review, including providing the facts or circumstances surrounding the conviction, proof of rehabilitation efforts, and evidence of good tenant or employment history. The new policy should be an industry model for how landlords can screen applicants fairly and avoid discrimination.
In addition, defendants agreed to train their employees in fair housing and make a donation to HOME to allow the organization to continue its work of uncovering and addressing housing discrimination. Defendants will also pay damages and attorneys’ fees related to the matter.
Relman, Dane & Colfax’s litigation team included Glenn Schlactus, Tara Ramchandani, Sara Pratt, Orly May, and Lila Miller, with assistance from paralegal Amanda Borquaye. Rachel Goodman, Alejandro Ortiz, and Joshua David Riegel of the ACLU Foundation, and Eden Heilman and Jennifer Safstrom of the ACLU Foundation of Virginia, were co-counsel.