Conn. Fair Hous. Ctr. v. Corelogic Rental Prop. Solutions, LLC

Decision Date07 August 2020
Docket NumberNo. 3:18-CV-705 (VLB),3:18-CV-705 (VLB)
Citation478 F.Supp.3d 259
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut

Greg J. Kirschner, Salmun Kazerounian, Sarah White, Connecticut Fair Housing Center, Hartford, CT, Christine E. Webber, Pro Hac Vice, Joseph M. Sellers, Pro Hac Vice, Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll, PLLC, Washington, DC, Eric Gregory Dunn, National Housing Law Project, Richmond, VA, for Plaintiff Connecticut Fair Housing Ctr.

Greg J. Kirschner, Salmun Kazerounian, Sarah White, Connecticut Fair Housing Center, Hartford, CT, Christine E. Webber, Joseph M. Sellers, Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll, PLLC, Washington, DC, Eric Gregory Dunn, National Housing Law Project, Richmond, VA, for Plaintiff Carmen Arroyo.

Alan Durrum Wingfield, Pro Hac Vice, Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP, David N. Anthony, Pro Hac Vice, Patrick F. Dillard, Pro Hac Vice, Timothy St. George, Pro Hac Vice, Troutman Sanders, Richmond, VA, Victoria Woodin Chavey, Jackson Lewis - P.C. Htfd, CT, Hartford, CT, Cindy D. Hanson, Pro Hac Vice, Troutman Sanders, Atlanta, GA, Daniel Cohen, Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP, West Simsbury, CT, for Defendant.

Memorandum of Decision on Motions for Summary Judgment [Dkts. 87, 112, 116]
Vanessa L. Bryant, United States District of Connecticut

Plaintiffs Connecticut Fair Housing Center ("CFHC") and Carmen Arroyo ("Ms. Arroyo"), individually and as next friend for Mikhail Arroyo ("Mr. Arroyo") (collectively, "Plaintiffs") bring the instant litigation against Defendant CoreLogic Rental Property Solutions, LLC ("Defendant" or "RPS") alleging that RPS violated the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq. ("FHA"), the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practice Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 42-110a et seq. ("CUTPA") and the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq. ("FCRA").

In April of 2016, Carmen Arroyo attempted to move her disabled son, Mikhail Arroyo, for whom she was conservator, into her apartment complex ArtSpace Windham, but his application was rejected. Two separate actions by defendant CoreLogic Rental Property Solutions, LLC regarding that incident motivate the instant lawsuit: first, CoreLogic RPS, through its CrimSAFE product, notified apartment manager WinnResidential that "disqualifying records" were found for Mr. Arroyo; second, RPS did not disclose Mr. Arroyo's criminal records to Ms. Arroyo on behalf of Mr. Arroyo until the start of this litigation, despite her numerous requests and provision of many documents.

RPS has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment as to the entirety of the action. [Dkts. 112 (Redacted Version) and 114 (Unredacted Version)]. Plaintiffs have filed two separate Motions for Partial Summary Judgment: one as to their file disclosure claims [Dkt. 87], and one to their race and national origin discrimination FHA and CUTPA claims. [Dkts. 116 (Redacted Version) and 118 (Unredacted Version)]. The parties have filed oppositions and replies for each motion. For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part RPS's motion for summary judgment and denies Plaintiffsmotions for partial summary judgment.

I. Material Facts 1
A. Parties

Mikhail Arroyo is a Latino man. [Dkt. 118-1 (Pl.’s 56(a)1 Statement) ¶39]. Mr. Arroyo is significantly disabled. Id. ¶40. His disabilities were caused by an accident in July 2015. Id. ¶40. Mr. Arroyo was hospitalized until early 2016, when he was transferred to a nursing home to continue to recover from his injuries. Ibid. The Connecticut Probate Court appointed Carmen Arroyo Mikhail Arroyo's conservator in August of 2015.2 ,3 .

The Connecticut Fair Housing Center ("CFHC") is a housing advocacy nonprofit. RPS is a national tenant screening company that offers tenant screening products under the rubric of "Rental Property Solutions," which it has described as a "comprehensive leasing decision service to the single and multifamily housing industry." [Dkt. 114-1 (Def's 56(a)1 Statement of Material Facts) ¶1]. One of those products is "Registry CrimSAFE" ("CrimSAFE"). Id. ¶5. RPS provides this service to managers of more than 120 properties in Connecticut. [Dkt. 118-1 ¶ 100].

Though not a party, WinnResidential also plays a central role in this litigation. It is one of the largest property management companies in the country. [Dkt. 118-1 ¶29]. WinnResidential has used RPS's screening products since 2008. Id. ¶30. In 2016, WinnResidential managed ArtSpace Windham, an apartment complex in Connecticut where Carmen Arroyo resided and applied for housing on behalf of Mikhail Arroyo. Id. ¶41.

B. CrimSAFE's Role in Rental Housing Application Evaluations

For each housing applicant, CrimSAFE filters and then categorizes any identified crimes according to their severity levels under varying state and federal law, as well as the type of crime. Id. ¶5. CrimSAFE then applies the leasing criteria chosen by the housing provider from the menu offered by CrimSAFE to any records found and informs the housing provider whether "disqualifying" records are found. Id. ¶5. Disqualifying records consist of both convictions and other charges, including arrests which have not led to a conviction. See [Dkt. 118-4 (Ex. 22 to Pl.’s Mot. Summ. J.].

To use CrimSAFE, a landlord fills out a short electronic form, generated by RPS, that lists general categories of crimes for which CrimSAFE can screen. [Dkt. 118-1 ¶8]. A landlord establishes the leasing criteria by selecting from the list the crimes which it wants CrimSAFE to screen. Id. These criminal categories track verbatim those created by the FBI's National Incident Based Reporting System. [Dkt. 129-1 (Def.’s 56(a)2 Statement of Facts) ¶8]. For each criminal category, the landlord enters the maximum number of years back CrimSAFE should look "to decline an applicant for the specified type of crime" (hereinafter, "lookback period"). [Dkt. 118-1 ¶8]. The CrimSAFE configuration webpage explains that "applicants whose criminal record[s] are older than the number of years for the specified crime will result in an accept for your community." Id. The maximum lookback periods are 99 years for convictions and 7 years for non-convictions. Id. ¶ 11.

When a landlord receives a rental application, it provides RPS the applicant's first and last name, date of birth, and current address (and optionally the middle name). [Dkt. 118-1 ¶14]. RPS then searches its database for criminal records that match the applicant. Ibid. If a criminal record is matched to the applicant, RPS determines the category, if the record is felony or not, and if conviction or not. Id. ¶16.4 After locating and categorizing a record that has been matched to the applicant, RPS compares the age of the record with the lookback period for the given category. Id. ¶17. If the applicant has a record within the landlord's chosen category and lookback period, CrimSAFE notifies the leasing agent of disqualifying "record(s) found," and directs the housing provider to "proceed with their communities screening policies." Id. ¶19.

In 2016, the period at issue here, the cover page of the RPS's screening report for leasing agents was titled "Lease Decision," and listed a "Crim Decision," which tracked the CrimSAFE result, and stated "Record(s) Found" if disqualifying records were found. Id. ¶ 20; see [Dkt. 114-2 (Kayani Decl.) at Ex. C (Leasing Agent Version of Arroyo Background Screening Report)].

RPS has marketed and sold CrimSAFE as rendering a decision on an applicant's suitability for tenancy based on their criminal history. [Dkt. 118-1 at ¶5]. It has described the removal of "human bias or judgment" as a "benefit" of its CrimSAFE product. Id. at ¶6. In configuration instructions it has provided, it states, "A criminal record generally contains information on the type of crime, degree and level of crime, and date of offense. With CrimSAFE, this public record information is evaluated and used to provide a decision based on the client's pre-determined criminal decision policy." Id. at ¶9.

RPS allows CrimSAFE customers to disclose or suppress information underlying disqualification from its staff and housing applicants. Id. ¶ 26. If a customer chooses to suppress disclosure of the underlying criminal record from its onsite leasing staff, they see only whether disqualifying records are found or not. Id. ¶ 26. Landlords have the option of having adverse action letters automatically delivered to applicants via email when CrimSAFE has found disqualifying records in order to notify them that their applications have been declined. Id. at ¶24.

CrimSAFE is only one of RPS's screening products: RPS also offers separate tenant screening products which simply identify and return criminal public records of a housing applicant to the housing provider, but which do not themselves filter or categorize the results in any way. [Dkt. 114-2 (Kayani Decl.) ¶¶4-5].

The parties provide conflicting evidence on whether CrimSAFE always returns a copy of the underlying report that displays the full public data of an applicant's criminal record to someone at the client housing provider. RPS's executive Naeem Kayani declares that it does. [Dkt. 114-2 (Kayani Decl.) ¶7]. Plaintiffs point to a 2016 training which states that, if a housing provider unchecks a box on the CrimSAFE configuration page, none of its users have access to the reports containing the full public records. [Dkt. 118-3 (Ex. 13 to Pl.’s Mot. Summ. J.: 2016 Training) at 37]; [Dkt. 118-4 (Ex. 22 to Pl.’s Mot. Summ. J.: 2016 Configuration Page Example)], [Dkt. 116-18 (Ex. 15 to Pl.’s Mot. Summ. J.: Thomas Dep.) at 71-72].

In its proposal to WinnResidential, RPS wrote that, with CrimSAFE, "criminal record search results are evaluated using our own advanced, proprietary technology and an accept/decline leasing decision is delivered to your staff." Id. at ¶33]. RPS's proposal to WinnResidential explains that "[u]sers who choose to have...

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