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East Lansing finds property managers discriminated against tenant who paid rent with COVID aid

The image shows a large, modern apartment building with lots of windows. The building is tall and thin, with straight lines and a flat roof. The exterior is made of white concrete and glass. The windows are large and evenly spaced, and they cover the entire facade of the building. The building is surrounded by a few trees and shrubs, and there is a sidewalk and a road in front of it.
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The East Lansing Human Rights Commission found the property management company of Woodbrooke Village Apartments discriminated against a former tenant based on their source of income.

The East Lansing Human Rights Commission has determined that a local property management company engaged in discriminatory behavior against a former tenant based on their income.

In the summer of 2022, DTN Management refused to renew Maria Yokich-Grebner’s rental agreement. At the time, representatives for DTN said they were not renewing leases of tenants who utilized the state’s COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program. Yokich-Grebner paid her rent at Woodbrook Village Apartments using those funds when she was unemployed during the pandemic.

Attorney Mark Grebner filed the complaint on behalf of his niece, arguing property managers should have accepted her payments.

East Lansing has an ordinance that says no one may discriminate on the basis of legal source of income,” he said.

Grebner said his niece was forced into a month-to-month verbal lease arrangement with DTN that was more expensive and that the company denied returning her $200 security deposit.

Last week, the East Lansing Human Rights Commission found DTN’s denial did in fact violate city code.

Commission Chair Karen Hoene said the management company sent a text message to Yokich-Grebner that stated it wouldn’t be renewing her lease because she had received CERA funding.

“We thought that there was adequate proof that she had been denied a renewal based on receiving CERA funds,” Hoene said. “And that literally came directly from the mouth of a DTN employee.”

According to the commission, DTN disputed Yokich-Grebner's claims, but made personnel changes following the incident. A spokesperson for the company did not comment on the decision.

“The employee no longer works there; however, we did not feel that DTN adequately disproved it,” Hoene explained.

The commission is now asking DTN management to notify other tenants about the discrimination finding and to forgive any outstanding debts Yokich-Grebner may have incurred.

“DTN has to for a period of 12 months, put documentation inside all of their East Lansing housing complexes that said that they've been found in violation,” Hoene said.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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