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New Haven couple sues landlord alleging racial and criminal record discrimination

Mark Griffin and Cheryl Rabe stand for a portrait following a press conference on June 6, 2024 where they announced, with the ACLU and other organizations, a racial discrimination complaint against Mandy Management and P2P Realty who they say refused to rent to them because of Griffin’s misdemeanor convictions from over 34 years ago.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Mark Griffin and Cheryl Rabe stand for a portrait following a press conference on June 6, 2024 where they announced, with the ACLU and other organizations, a racial discrimination complaint against Mandy Management and P2P Realty who they say refused to rent to them because of Griffin’s misdemeanor convictions from over 34 years ago.

By his own telling, New Haven resident Mark Griffin made a bad decision 34-years-ago, when he was convicted of two misdemeanor crimes. Griffin has since moved on, and has made a life with his fiancee, Cheryl Rabe

But he says his past prevented him from getting an apartment from Mandy Management LLC, one of the biggest landlords in New Haven.

“My background check showed that I passed every aspect of the review except for the criminal record,” Griffin said.

He, along with Rabe, spoke in front of Mandy Management’s Whalley Avenue offices Thursday and are now suing the company for what they allege is racial discrimination as a result of getting their rental application denied.

The couple is being represented by attorneys with the New Haven Legal Assistance Association, which offers pro-bono legal services to New Haven residents. Their lawyers are among those calling on state legislators to pass a bill preventing landlords from denying housing to apartment seekers due to prior criminal convictions. They have also filed a complaint with the state’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) against the landlord.

Amy Eppler-Epstein, who represents the couple, said she’s calling on the state to intervene and pass a bill that would outlaw a landlord from rejecting a rental application due to the applicant’s criminal record except for felony convictions within a three year period of the application along with other conditions.

“We want to draw attention to this now, because we want the legislature to know this is what's happening,” Eppler-Epstein said.

Griffin was convicted on two misdemeanor assault charges in 1989. But he hasn’t committed any crimes since, and has rented from other landlords in the past without issue.

So, when he and his fiancee submitted an application to Mandy Management earlier this year, he thought he was going to get the apartment.

But that wasn’t the case, according to Rabe.

“They are simply refusing to rent to him or to us as a couple because of his criminal record,” Rabe said. “We demand an end to this type of discrimination.”

Mandy Management LLC owns over 5,000 rental units throughout Connecticut, New York and Georgia. An office manager at the company, Yako Ma, said in an email the company does not comment on pending or ongoing litigation. But Ma said the company does not discriminate against current or potential tenants.

“To maximize transparency and fairness in rental decisions, we apply the same screening criteria and procedures to every applicant so we can make informed decisions to protect our rental community and to promote fairness and inclusiveness,” Ma said.

Iesha Stroud says she has been renting with Mandy Management in New Haven for two years, and after several health and safety concerns were unaddressed in her apartment by the company, she decided to move outside of the city.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Iesha Stroud says she has been renting with Mandy Management in New Haven for two years, and after several health and safety concerns were unaddressed in her apartment by the company, she decided to move outside of the city.

Mandy Management has received criticism in the past from tenants and attorneys over poor maintenance, high eviction rates and other issuesaccording to previous reporting from the New Haven Independent.

The company’s foothold on New Haven rental properties is high enough that Emerge Connecticut’s Executive Director Alden Woodcock also rented from Mandy Management and said there’s merit to Griffin’s claims.

Woodcock was also convicted on a misdemeanor, but said he was able to get an apartment through Mandy, without having to undergo a background check.

“So, there are definitely exceptions to the rule,” Woodcock said. “The big difference between me and the gentleman we just met is that I'm white.”

Iesha Stroud, a Mandy Management tenant, said she supports Griffin’s legal fight.

Stroud rattled off several complaints against her landlord, including mold in her unit, faulty windows and a lack of fire alarms. While she said Griffin and his fiancee are in the right, she also believes getting a unit with Mandy isn't much of a win.

“If you can just take a little bit more time to search and find quality people who treat you like a human being, do that, but do not do Mandy,” she said.

Stroud said she soon plans to move out of her unit.

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