By DB Sagar *
International Commission for the Rights of Dalits (ICDR) and civil rights groups concerned about increasing discrimination, harassment and intimidation in “caste-based” housing in the United States . In 2021, the ICDR received more than 150 complaints from across the country alleging housing discrimination on the basis of caste when attempting to rent or rent a house or apartment.
The ICDR has received more than five calls each month from victims across the country complaining of caste discrimination in housing or rental processes. The ICDR advocacy team reviewed each complaint and verified the facts of the incidents.
The results show that landlords, master tenants and South Asian landlords often discriminate in asking tenants about their caste while engaging in negotiation. We found out that this had happened with victims in California, Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Texas and other parts of the country.
The risk of caste-based housing discrimination in the United States is an ongoing problem and has likely increased as the South Asian population in the United States has grown; there are currently nearly 5.4 million people of South Asian descent in the United States. In a 2021 study, 77% of respondents of South Asian origin said they had experienced some form of caste discrimination when being treated for housing.
Even outside of the housing negotiations, the ICDR and other civil society groups have substantial documented evidence of the discrimination of dominant castes against subordinate castes, many of whom are “Dalits”, in each case. section of American society, regardless of religion, nationality and occupation.
On August 18, 2021, Sanjeev Bimali, of Nepalese descent and owner of San Francisco, Calif., Denied having rented any available accommodation to another Nepalese descent because of his caste. Bimali initially agreed to rent out his available accommodation for $ 900 per month to a tenant (“the victim”), who was also of Nepalese descent and lived in the same place.
Bimali requested a security deposit of $ 500, which he immediately received from the victim through an electronic money transfer app. The victim and Bimali exchanged phone numbers and agreed on a move-in date for September 1, 2021. About six hours later, Bimali contacted the victim to inform him that the unit was no longer available. no longer available because the family is from Nepal and two tenants would be bothered, despite previously stating that the unit was available and the current tenants would have no issues.
The victim was shocked at the sudden change and asked Bimali what had happened? Bimali said his other tenants threatened to leave if the new tenant moved in. The victim felt “discriminated against, humiliated and disturbed”.
While asking “why don’t you rent the unit available to me?” Bimali responded without mentioning caste and noting that there was no reason to discriminate and the victim was overthinking the incident. Bimali returned the security deposit and sent a screenshot of the transaction as proof.
This testimony is an example of the caste-based housing discrimination and harassment in the United States that the ICDR and civil rights groups have observed. Obviously, Bimali refused to rent any available accommodation because of the victim’s caste.
Unfortunately, this victim is not alone in her experience; caste discrimination in the housing / rental process is something we see more frequently among South Asian descent in this most difficult time of the pandemic, possibly because there has been more attention brought to this issue, and more victims come forward when faced with unfair housing discrimination, especially when South Asian descendants rent out their available accommodation to another South Asian descendant.
Caste discrimination is a form of ancestry, national origin and racial discrimination. Concepts of national origin, ancestry, and racial discrimination are defined and entrenched in US law and are sufficient grounds to protect individuals from caste discrimination in housing. On December 22, 2021, California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued an alert reminding tenants of their fair housing rights and protections.
In a 2021 study, 77% of respondents of South Asian origin said they had experienced some form of caste discrimination when being treated for housing
A number of state and federal laws prohibit discrimination in housing based on race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability and other protected characteristics. It is illegal to be refused rental accommodation or to be treated differently based on caste / race, ancestry / ethnicity or your skin color.
The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing and housing-related services. The Fair Housing Act legally guarantees that this is because brokers, sellers, lenders and insurers cannot adopt policies that discriminate against people of the protected class. It aims to ensure that no one is discriminated against in real estate transactions on the basis of their protected class.
Despite these legal protections, “We must recognize that discrimination in housing continues today and that individuals, including people of color [caste] and people with disabilities continue to be denied equal access to rental housing and property, ”Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L Fudge said in a press release on June 25, 2021.
The ICDR has gathered information for caste-based housing discrimination and harassment litigation imposed by landlords and landlords who refuse to show or rent available properties to potential tenants because of their caste , race, ancestry or national origin. In such disputes, the ICDR seeks an injunction against landlords and landlords to end their deceptive, illegal and discriminatory practices, as well as restitution and penalties for violating fair and non-discriminatory housing laws.
Victims and communities should not remain silent but file a complaint with the ICDR and local, state and federal agencies, such as the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
* President / Founder, International Commission for the Rights of Dalits