October 4, By Tara Law
A foster mother recently reached a $5,000 settlement with a Forest Hills-based real estate broker who refused to show her an apartment because she had a toddler, according to the NYC Commission on Human Rights.
The mother, Jessica Israel, contacted Roger Mashihi of Metro Garden Realty in Aug. 2013 to ask about a Forest Hills duplex that was for rent that was advertised as a “sweet deal” featuring a backyard, parking and two bedrooms for $1,895 a month, according to the settlement summary released by the Commission.
During their initial conversation, Israel told Mashihi that she had a daughter. Israel sent her photos of the apartment and then texted her to ask the daughter’s age. Israel responded that her daughter was two.
“I think the landlord is uncomfortable with that situation,” responded Mashihi via text, “given that the tenant below plays music and it may disturb her sleep. Thanks for letting me know.”
Mashihi, according to documents released by the Commission, suggested more expensive apartments instead of showing Israel the apartment.
Israel later said that she “felt victimized.” She filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission in Sept. 2013, accusing Mashihi of discriminating against her for having a child.
Mishihi settled with her on Aug. 2 without admitting wrongdoing.
In an interview today, Mashihi called the incident a “simple misunderstanding” and claimed he had an unblemished real estate record.
NYC Human Rights Law forbids landlords and brokers to discriminate against tenants based on them having children.
In addition to the $5,000 settlement payment, Mashihi also agreed to attend training on the NYC Human Rights Law within 90 days; to post a “Notice of Rights” poster publicly outside of his office; give a “Notice of Rights” poster to all prospective tenants and in all lease renewals for five years; and to complete 40 hours of community service within one year.
According to the Commission, as of this May it was investigating 32 claims of discrimination based on the presence of children. However, it says that this is likely an underreported form of discrimination because people are not aware that tenants with children are a protected group.