Nikita Smith v. Wasatch Property Management, Inc. et al.
What's at Stake
The American Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights Project, ACLU of Washington, Northwest Justice Project, and Virginia Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit in March 2017 challenging the widespread practice of denying housing applications whenever an applicant was previously named in an eviction case.
In 2015, Nikita Smith was interested in renting an apartment managed by Wasatch Property Management (WPM). WPM told Ms. Smith that WPM would never admit her as a tenant because she had been named in an eviction filing, even though she was never evicted and continued living in her previous home for two more years.
The complaint asserts that WPM’s blanket policy of denying housing based on the mere filing of an eviction case violates the federal Fair Housing Act, because it disproportionately harms African Americans, particularly African-American women. The action also asserts that landlords who review eviction records in rental admissions should consider the relevant circumstances, including the recency of the eviction filings and the outcomes of the cases, before denying admission.
Research shows that in King County, African-American tenants are nearly four times more likely to have an eviction case filed against them compared to white tenants. Households headed by African-American women are more than five times as likely to have a filing against them compared to households headed by white men.
OUTCOME: This case sucessfully settled on October 2017.