Housing And Civil Enforcement Cases Documents

R. ALEXANDER ACOSTA
Assistant Attorney General
STEVEN H. ROSENBAUM
Chief
JEANINE M. WORDEN, JW-9094
Deputy Chief
CHARLA D. JACKSON, CJ-4493
Attorney
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.- G Street
Washington, DC 20530
(202)353-9705

CHRISTOPHER J. CHRISTIE
United States Attorney
MICHAEL A. CHAGARES, MC-5483
Assistant U.S. Attorney
Chief, Civil Division
United States Attorney's Office
970 Broad Street, Suite 700
Newark, NJ 07102
(973)645-2700

Attorneys for Plaintiff


UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

Plaintiff,

v.
                                                                         Civil Action No. 03-1509 (DMC)

SPYDER WEB ENTERPRISES, LLC.

Defendant.

______________________________

CONSENT DECREE

1. The United States initiated this action pursuant to Section 28 U.S.C. §1345 and 42 U.S.C. §3614(a), alleging that the Defendant has engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. §3604(c) of the Fair Housing Act.

2. Defendant Spyder Web Enterprises, LLC, a New Jersey limited liability company located in Bergen County, New Jersey in the District of New Jersey, owns and operates a website called "TheSublet.com". This website lists private apartments and houses for rent. A landlord or person seeking to sublet an apartment can post the advertisement for a rental unit in any region throughout the country free of charge; the fee is paid by the individual looking for housing. The Defendant also owns and operates the following three (3) websites that pertain to rental housing:

www.cityleases.com; www.metroroomates.com; and www.roommatematches.com, and other websites directly related thereto.

3. Upon accessing the website, a reader is given information on housing in a geographical region of his or her choice. Once a geographic region is chosen, the reader is provided with detailed information about available rentals. The details include information about the dwelling unit and its location, monthly rent, and availability dates. The reader can then respond directly to the housing provider by way of the website or other means, as indicated in the advertisement.

4. The United States, in its Complaint, has alleged that, through its website, "TheSublet.com", the Defendant publishes or causes to be published notices, statements, and advertisements with respect to the rental of dwellings that indicate preferences, limitations, and discrimination based on race, sex, familial status, and national origin in violation of 42 U.S.C. §3604(c).

5. In an effort to avoid costly litigation, the United States and the Defendant have voluntarily agreed, as indicated by the signatures below, to resolve the United States' claims against the Defendant without the necessity of a hearing on the merits, which will include the payment of damages by Defendant.

6. The Court takes no position on the merits of the allegations in this case, nor on the defenses raised, but concludes that the entry of this Consent Order comports with the Fair Housing Act and other federal laws, and is appropriate under these circumstances.

Wherefore, it is ORDERED, ADJUDGED and DECREED:

I.    Injunctive Relief

7. Defendant Spyder Web Enterprises, LLC, and its officers, agents, employees, and those persons in active concert with them who receive actual notice of this Decree, are enjoined from making, printing, publishing, or causing to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement or advertisement with respect to the rental of a dwelling unit that states any preference, limitation or discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(c).

8. Throughout the term of this consent decree, Defendant shall make available to the United States access to "TheSublet.com" rental search service, as well as to each of the other websites listed in Paragraph 2 of this Decree, for purposes of monitoring compliance with this consent decree.

II.    Notice to Public of Nondiscrimination Policies

9. Within thirty (30) days after the date of entry of this Consent Decree, the Defendant shall take the following steps to notify the public of their nondiscriminatory policies:

  1. Defendant shall develop a nondiscrimination policy that states, at a minimum, that all submissions to "TheSublet.com", and to each of the other websites listed in Paragraph 2 of this Decree, are subject to federal fair housing laws making it illegal to indicate in any advertisement "any preference, limitation, or discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, family status, and national origin."
  2. Whenever landlords or tenants seeking to sublet and/or lease their apartments contract with Defendant for submission of listings, advertisements, or notices for publication on the "TheSublet.com" website, or any of the other websites listed in Paragraph 2 of this Decree, Defendant shall advise such persons, in writing, of its nondiscrimination policy;
  3. Defendant shall post a short statement summarizing this non-discrimination policy as a footer on the homepage of "TheSublet.com" website, and on the homepage of each of the other websites listed in Paragraph 2 of this Decree; and
  4. Defendant shall include the words "Equal Housing Opportunity" and/or the fair housing logo in all print advertising conducted by Defendant, its agents or employees, in emails, and in newspapers, flyers, handouts, telephone directories, and other written materials; as well as on radio, television or other media broadcasts that exceed 15 seconds in length; and on all billboards, signs, pamphlets, or other promotional literature. The words and/or logo shall be prominently placed and easily readable. A specific exception to the requirements of this provision will be made for print advertisements which contain fifteen (15) words or less, and advertisements that have already been published or have been contracted to be published.

III.     Mandatory Training

10. Within ninety (90) days after the date of entry of this Consent Decree, the Defendant shall provide an educational program for its officers, agents, and employees who have responsibilities for placing or maintaining advertisements for rentals or sublets on any of Defendant's websites listed in Paragraph 2 of this Decree, the cost of which shall be paid by the Defendant. The program shall provide copies of this Consent Decree and the nondiscrimination policy required by Paragraph 8, and offer instruction regarding the officers, agents, or employees' obligations under the Decree, the non-discrimination policy, and the Fair Housing Act.

11. Each individual required to participate in the educational program referenced in this Section shall sign a statement, Attachment A, certifying that he or she has participated in the educational training program, has read and understood this Consent Decree and other material provided to him/her as part of such program, and has acknowledged his or her duties and responsibilities under this Consent Decree and the federal Fair Housing Act.

IV.   Scope and Duration of Consent Order

12. The provisions of this Consent Order shall apply to Defendant Spyder Web Enterprises and its officers, agents and employees who have responsibilities for placing or maintaining advertisements for rentals or sublets on any of Defendant's websites listed in Paragraph 2 of this Decree.

13. This Consent Order is effective immediately upon its entry by the Court and shall remain in effect for three (3) years from the date of entry.

14. The Court shall retain jurisdiction for the duration of this Consent Decree to enforce the terms of the Decree, after which time the case shall be dismissed with prejudice.

15. The Court may, upon motion by the United States, extend the period in which this Order is in effect if it determines that the Defendant has likely violated one or more terms of this Order or if the interests of justice otherwise require an extension of the terms of the Order.

16. The parties to this Consent Order shall endeavor in good faith to resolve informally any differences regarding interpretation of and compliance with this Order prior to bringing such matters to the Court for resolution. However, in the event that the Defendant either fails to perform in a timely manner any act required by this Order or acts in violation of any provision of this Order, the United States may move the Court to impose any remedy authorized by law or equity, including, but not limited to, an order requiring performance or non-performance of certain acts and an award of any damages and costs that may have been occasioned by the Defendant's action(s) or inaction.

17. Any time period set forth within this Order for the performance of any act may be changed by written agreement of the parties without Court approval.

V.     Monetary Damages

18. Within ninety (90) days after entry of this Order, Defendant shall establish and deposit $10,000.00 (Ten Thousand and No/100 Dollars)in an interest bearing account at a financial institution for purposes of establishing a victim fund ("Fund") which will be used to compensate any subscribers to "TheSublet.com" website who may have suffered damages as a result of the Defendant's discriminatory conduct. Defendant shall provide the United States with notice regarding the establishment of the Fund within five (5) business days after the funds are deposited. All interest accruing to the moneys deposited to the Fund shall be the property of the Fund.

19. Within ninety (90) days after the entry of this Order, Defendant shall send a Notice to Potential Victims of Housing Discrimination ("Notice") via email to all persons who subscribed to "TheSublet.com" website during the time period beginning October 1, 2001 through March 30, 2003. Defendant shall send an email or a carbon copy of each such Notice, and/or a list of those individuals to whom the Notice was sent, to counsel for United States within five (5) business days of the Notice being sent. A copy of the Notice is attached as Exhibit B.

20. Allegedly aggrieved persons shall have 90 days from the date that the Notice was sent to contact the United States in response to the Notice. The United States shall investigate the claims of allegedly aggrieved persons and, within one (1) year from the entry of this Order, shall make a preliminary determination of which persons are aggrieved and an appropriate amount of damages that should be paid to the each such persons. The United States will inform Defendant in writing of its preliminary determinations, together with a copy of a sworn declaration from each aggrieved person setting forth the factual basis of the claim. Defendant shall have thirty (30) days to review the declaration and provide to the United States any documents or information that they believe may refute the claim.

21. After receiving Defendant's comments, the United States shall submit its final recommendations to the Court for approval, together with a copy of the declarations and any additional information submitted by the Defendant. When the Court issues an order approving or changing the United States' proposed distribution of funds for aggrieved persons, Defendant shall, within ten (10) days of the Court's order, deliver to the United States checks payable to the aggrieved persons in the amounts approved by the Court. In no event shall the aggregate of all such checks exceed the sum of the Fund, including accrued interest. No aggrieved person shall be paid until he/she has executed and delivered to counsel for the United States the release at Attachment C.

22. In the event that less than the total amount in the fund including accrued interest is distributed to aggrieved persons, the remainder of the fund shall be distributed to the Housing Rights Center ("HRC") located at the following address: 520 S. Virgil Avenue, Suite 400, Los Angeles, CA 90020, or to some other court approved fair housing organization, to be used for the purpose of furthering fair housing.

23. Defendant shall permit the United States, upon reasonable notice, to review any available records that may reasonably relate to the claims of alleged aggrieved persons.

V.   Civil Penalty

24. Within ninety (90) days after the entry of this Consent Order, the Defendants shall pay the sum of Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00) to the United States as a civil penalty pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 3614 (d)(1)(C). This payment shall be delivered to counsel for the United States in the form of a check payable to the "United States Treasury."

25. In the event that any of the Defendants or their agents or employees are found liable for any future violation(s) of the Fair Housing Act, such violation(s) shall constitute a "subsequent violation" pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 3614(d).

V.     Notices and Correspondence

26. All notices and correspondence required to be sent to the United States under the provisions of this Decree shall be sent to the U.S. Department of Justice, c/o the undersigned counsel for the United States, at the following addresses:

Regular U.S. Mail:   950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.Washington, D.C. 20530
Overnight Mail:   1800 G Street, N.W
Suite 7062
Washington, D.C. 20006

It is so ORDERED this ____ day of _________, 2003.

________________________________
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

The undersigned agree to and request the entry of this Consent Order:

For the United States:

CHRISTOPHER J. CHRISTIE
United States Attorney
for the District of New Jersey
R. ALEXANDER ACOSTA
Assistant Attorney General STEVEN H. ROSENBAUM
Chief
MICHAEL A. CHAGARES
Assistant United States Attorney
Chief, Civil Division
970 Broad Street, Suite 700
Newark, NJ 07102
(201)645-2700
___________________________
JEANINE M. WORDEN
Deputy Chief
CHARLA JACKSON
Trial Attorney
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Housing and Civil Enforcement
Section
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
(202) 353-9705

For the Defendant:

______________________
JOSHUA D. LEVINE
The Levine Law Firm
0-99 Plaza Road
Fair Lawn, NJ 07410
(201)794-1100


On ________________,  2003, I was instructed by ___________________________________  with respect to my responsibilities under the federal Fair Housing Act and under the terms of the Consent Decree entered in United States v. Spyder Web Enterprises, LLC (D.N.J.). I have received copies of the federal Fair Housing Act and the above-referenced Consent Decree. I____________________________was instructed on procedures to ensure that race, sex, family status, and national origin limitations and/or preferences are not published or otherwise disseminated over the website "The Sublet.com", or any other website operated by Spyder Web Enterprises, LLC, to persons who inquire about renting dwellings. I was also given the opportunity to ask questions and review each of the foregoing areas. I understand my legal responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act and the Consent Decree, and I will comply with those responsibilities. I further understand that the Court may impose sanctions on me if I violate a provision of this Order.

_______________________________
(Signature)

_______________________________
(Print name)

_______________________________
(Date)


Notice to Subscribers of "TheSublet.com" Website Who May Be Potential Victims of Housing Discrimination

On _________________, 2003, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey entered a Consent Order resolving a housing discrimination lawsuit brought by the United States against the owners of the website "TheSublet.com". The lawsuit alleges that the Defendant, Spyder Web Enterprises, LLC, engaged in a pattern or practice of housing discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3604(c), by publishing or causing to be published notices, statements, and advertisements with respect to the rental of dwellings that indicate preferences, limitations, and discrimination based on race, sex, familial status, and national origin.

Under the Consent Order, a Settlement Fund is being established to identify and pay damages to people whose civil rights were violated by the Defendant. You may be qualified to recover from this Settlement Fund if you meet each of the following criteria: 1) you subscribed to the website, TheSublet.com, during the period between October, 2001 and March, 2003; 2) you accessed a listing(s) or advertisement(s) for dwelling units on TheSublet.com during the period between October, 2001 and March, 2003; 3) the listing(s) or advertisement(s) that you accessed expressed a preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, sex, familial status, and/or national origin; and 4) you were discouraged from renting or inquiring about a dwelling unit because of your race, sex, familial status, and/or national origin as a result of reading the discriminatory listing(s) or advertisement(s), OR you were actually denied an opportunity to obtain housing on the basis of race, sex, familial status, or national origin when you attempted to rent a dwelling unit that was advertised in the discriminatory listing(s) or advertisement(s).

If you believe you are a potential victim of housing discrimination because of your race, sex, familial status, or national origin, you meet the criteria listed above, and if you believe you are

consequently entitled to a share of the Settlement Fund, please contact the United States Department of Justice at:

1-800-896-7743 leave message in mailbox ___

You may also write to: United States Department of Justice

Civil Rights Division

Housing and Civil Enforcement Section

950 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. -G St

Washington, DC 20530

or fax to (202)514-1116

You must call or write on or before (date here) [90 days from the date of the entry of the Consent Order, or 90 days from the date the Notice was sent, whichever is later,] and your message or letter must  include your name, address, and, if possible, at least TWO telephone numbers where you may be reached.


ATTACHMENT C RELEASE OF CLAIMS

I, _______________________, on behalf of myself and family members, agents, heirs, executors, administrators, successors and assigns, pursuant to the terms, provisions, and conditions of the Consent Order approved by the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey on ___________________, 2003 in the case of United States v. Spyder Web Enterprises, LLC; Civ. No. 03-1509- (DMC) ("lawsuit") and in consideration of the payment of $ _______________ do fully, finally and forever release, discharge, and hold harmless Spyder Web Enterprises, LLC (hereafter "Defendant") along with its principals, predecessors, successors, assigns, affiliates, partners, directors, officers, agents, employers, shareholders, subsidiaries, employees, former employees, heirs, executors, and administrators and any persons acting under their respective direction or control (hereinafter "Releasees"), from any and all fair housing claims set forth, or which could have been set forth, in the Complaint in this lawsuit that I may have against the Defendant or any of the Releasees for any of the Defendant's actions or statements related to those claims through the date of this Consent Order, including claims for damages (both compensatory and punitive), costs, and attorney's fees. I affirm that the only consideration for signing this Full and Final Release of Claims are the terms stated in the Consent Order signed by the parties, and the monetary payment referenced above. I have accepted the terms of this Release and the Consent Order because I believe them to be a fair and reasonable settlement and for no other reason. This Release and the Consent Order contain and constitute the entire understanding and agreement between the parties.

______________________________
DATE

______________________________
NAME (PRINT)

_______________________________
SIGNATURE


Document Entered: January 18, 2004 > >
Updated August 6, 2015

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