Latinos are frequently treated differently than whites when renting an apartment, according to a review of portions of the Virginia apartment rental market.
The Equal Rights Center, a national civil rights organization, conducted more than 100 “matched pair” tests at apartment complexes around the state, including in the City of Fairfax.
Matched pair testing uses subjects who are the same in all respects except the one that the study is testing for, in this case ethnicity, said Donald Kahl, executive director of the Equal Rights Center.
For example, a 25-year-old Latina woman would go to a leasing office inquiring about apartments available for rent. Shortly after, a 25-year-old white woman would go to the same office asking about the same apartments. Both subjects would present similar income levels and employment history.
About 55 percent of the time, the Latino subjects experienced what the report describes as “adverse treatment,” as compared to their white counterpart.
The rate was even higher in the Northern Virginia tests — about 82 percent of testers in the 33 tests conducted here reported adverse treatment, including all five tests in the city of Fairfax.
“This report certainly identifies that in the commonwealth there remains much to be done to advance fair housing in general and in particular for the Latino community,” Kahl said.
In addition to Fairfax, the testing was conducted in Loudoun and Prince William counties locally; areas around Culpeper, Harrisonburg and Charlottesville in northwest Virginia; and in the Richmond and Hampton Roads/Virginia Beach regions.
Events identified as adverse treatment included Latinos being quoted higher rental rates or fees than whites for the same apartments, not being offered the same discounts or specials, being offered later availability dates, being told there were fewer apartments available or being informed of different application requirements, such as a credit check or Social Security card.
Although the study documented differential treatment, it’s impossible to draw conclusions about the reasons for the treatment, Kahl said.
“There is a possibility that the individuals representing the properties are not properly trained,” he said. “It may be simple error, or it may be something more sinister than that.”
The report recommends that housing providers ensure their staff members are trained in fair housing laws and also that they rely on written materials, to ensure that all potential applicants receive the same information.
Another goal of the report is to raise awareness within the Latino immigrant community about fair housing laws, Kahl said.
“Our goal is to highlight that this type of treatment does occur and that it’s wrong and that there is something they can do about it,” he said.