COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND OPPORTUNITIES EX REL. FANETTA ARNOLD et al. v. JEAN FORVIL et al., SC 18500
Judicial District of Fairfield at Bridgeport
Fair Housing; Whether Trial Court Correctly Found That Tenant had been Discriminated Against on the Basis of her "Lawful Source of Income" in Violation of General Statutes § 46a-64c; Whether § 46a-64c is Unconstitutionally Vague. In early 2006, Fanetta Arnold, who had been living in a homeless shelter with her two children, agreed to rent an apartment from Jean and Victoire Forvil (the Forvils). Jean Forvil told Arnold that, in order to obtain the apartment, she would need twice the monthly rent of $800 plus the security deposit. In response, Arnold informed the Forvils that she is eligible to obtain a security deposit guaranty (SDG) from the department of social services. General Statutes § 17b-802 authorizes the department to provide SDGs to individuals who are either living in emergency housing or are receiving financial assistance from the state. An SDG may be used by an eligible individual "in lieu of a security deposit on a rental dwelling unit," and it guarantees payment to the landlord for damages that would otherwise be covered by the tenant's security deposit. Jean Forvil indicated that he understood the process and would accept the SDG. Subsequently, Arnold provided the Forvils with a copy of her approved SDG application. When Arnold attempted to move into the apartment, however, she was denied access by the Forvils on the ground that they required a cash security deposit. Thereafter, the commission on human rights and opportunities (CHRO) brought this action on behalf of Arnold against the Forvils, alleging a violation of General Statutes § 46a-64c, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of the tenant's "lawful source of income." General Statutes § 46a-63 (3) defines "lawful source of income" as "income derived from . . . housing assistance, child support, alimony or public or state-administered general assistance." The Forvils claimed that the CHRO could not establish discrimination under § 46a-64c because an SDG was not a "lawful source of income" within the meaning of § 46a-63 (3). The court observed that the history of § 46a-64c demonstrates that the legislature intended to prohibit landlords from denying rental opportunities to people whose source of income included federal or state housing assistance. Thereafter, the court determined that an SDG constitutes a "lawful source of income" within the meaning of § 46a-63 (3) because it is issued by the department to a prospective tenant for the purpose of "housing assistance." Next, the Forvils argued that § 46a-64c was unconstitutionally vague because it fails to give a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice that a non-cash benefit could constitute a "lawful source of income." Noting that Webster's Dictionary defines "income" as a gain or recurrent benefit, the court rejected this claim as well, stating that it was clear that the benefit provided by an SDG to a prospective tenant in his or her quest to obtain housing constitutes a "source of income." The Forvils have appealed from the trial court's decision.