‘I don’t rent to Muslims,’ NJ landlord allegedly says

TRENTON, N.J. — She was told she couldn’t rent an apartment because of her religion.

Now New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino has filed a five-count complaint against the Union County landlord who allegedly denied Fatma Farghaly the chance to rent an apartment because she’s Muslim.

Farghaly, who wears a headscarf, visited the 17-unit Maple Garden apartments in Elizabeth on Feb. 22 with a friend.  The apartment owner, William Greda, allegedly asked her if she was a Muslim before even allowing her into the apartment. She said yes.

“I don’t rent to Muslims,” Greda allegedly said.

News 12 New Jersey first reported the story Tuesday.

Farghaly reported the incident to police and to the Division of Civil Rights. Several weeks after Farghaly was allegedly barred from renting the apartment,  a female tester with the Division of Civil Rights arrived to view a rental unit in Greda’s building.

She used a Muslim name and donned a headscarf. Greda allegedly told the tester the unit was not suitable for her because she is a woman.

Two additional female Division testers checked out the apartment without presenting themselves as Muslims. Greda did not tell either of them the unit was unacceptable for them because they were women.

“The complaint filed today alleges conduct that is blatantly bias-driven and unacceptable under both state and federal law,” Attorney General Porrino said.

“Otherwise eligible renters and buyers have a right to live where they choose and to be treated equally in the pursuit of housing – regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity or creed.”

Greda claimed he wouldn’t allow Farghaly to view the one-bedroom apartment because she told him the apartment was for herself, her husband, her mother-in-law and two children. Greda said Farghaly’s friend punched him and threatened to kill him after Greda said five people could not live in the unit.

But the Division of Civil Rights investigation found that Farghaly is single with no children, according to the complaint. The Division found no evidence that Farghaly intended to live with anyone else in the apartment.

Greda has also said that Muslim tenants lived at Maple Gardens during the Division’s investigation, but he was not able to provide the Division with any contact information for those tenants.

The state is seeking damages for Farghaly for mental and emotional distress.