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Rodriguez v. Village Green Realty, Inc.

United States District Court, Second Circuit

October 10, 2013

HEIDI RODRIGUEZ, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
VILLAGE GREEN REALTY, INC., et al., Defendants.

DECISION and ORDER

THOMAS J. MCAVOY, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiffs commenced the instant action against Defendants asserting various violations of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 ("FHA"), 42 U.S.C. ยง 3601, et seq. Presently before the Court are Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 seeking dismissal of the Complaint in its entirety and Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Heidi and Juan Rodriguez are the parents of minor child, A.R. Defendant Blanca Aponte is a licensed real estate broker in the State of New York. Defendant Village Green Realty, Inc. ("VGR") is a real estate brokerage agency. Beginning in 2002, Aponte owned and operated her own real estate brokerage agency, Casa Blanca Realty. On or about October 31, 2008, Casa Blanca Realty entered into an asset and purchase agreement with VGR. Under this agreement, all active listings of Casa Blanca Realty were transferred to VGR. This included a listing for real property located at 48 Kate Yaeger Road, Saugerties, New York (the "Yaeger property.").[1] Aponte was the listing agent for the Yaeger property. In addition, Blanca Aponte became affiliated with VGR as an associate broker and continued to maintain her real estate broker's license under Casa Blanca Realty.

At all times relevant hereto, the Yaeger property was owned by Donnie Morelli. In March 2009, Plaintiffs directly entered into a month-to-month lease with Morelli to occupy one of two single family homes located on the Yaeger property. In January 2011, Mansour Farhandian became a prospective buyer of the Yaeger property. Morelli insisted that he directly handle all negotiations with Farhandian.

At the request of Morelli, on January 20, 2011, Aponte wrote to Plaintiffs advising them that Farhandian was interested in purchasing the property and retaining them as tenants under certain modified terms. The modified terms included increased rent, removal of Plaintiffs' property from the common garage, a $50.00 fee for storage of a trailer, removal of a trampoline or proof of adequate insurance coverage, a garbage disposal fee, and an agreement to permit periodic inspections of the premises. The letter requested that if the proposed terms were "not agreeable, please be advised that this letter will serve as notice of at least thirty (30) days and you will be required to vacate the premises no later than March 15th, 2011." Plaintiffs were asked to advise Aponte how they wished to reply to the terms outlined in the letter or the date of their vacating the premises. Plaintiffs did not respond to Aponte's letter. Plaintiff Heidi Rodriguez did speak with Morelli who is claimed to have responded that she should "not worry about it" and that he would "take care of it."

On January 23, 2011, Morelli and Farhandian entered into an offer to purchase agreement. Pursuant to the agreement, a contract of sale was to be signed on or about February 15, 2011 with a closing in early March. Meanwhile, Aponte continued to attempt to contact Plaintiffs by leaving several telephone messages. Plaintiffs did not respond to Aponte's calls. Aponte then reached out to Heidi Rodriguez via text messaging on her cellular telephone. The two exchanged a series of text messages, the full contents of which are reproduced at the end of this Decision and Order.

It appears that on February 7, 2011, Aponte may have learned from Morelli that Plaintiffs' daughter experienced seizures. Some of the text messages between Aponte and Heidi Rodriguez reference Rodriguez's daughter's medical condition. For example, the following exchanges took place:[2]

February 7, 2011:
Aponte: While we are both sympathetic to your situation, it does not change the fact that we are selling the property and you have been given ample notice I will be proceeding with legal action to remove your from premises You've known from the beginning that the property has been on the market
....
February 8, 2011:
Rodriguez: 2/18 or 2/22 for the visual inspection. 1 pm is the best time.
February 9, 2011:
Aponte: How is 1:45 on 18th. U also need to confirm that u are leaving by 3/15
February 12, 2011:
Rodriguez: 2/18 @ 1:45 will be fine. We are not leaving. Where do you want us to go with a sick child? I thought the new owner wanted renters? Why do you keep on harassing and insisting that we move? I have paid the rent on time and have not used our security or other deposit. When you were told of my daughter being sick we weren't asking for free rent or anything of the sort. Just to be understood and left alone to deal with her medical issues without being bothered by you asking us to leave our home.
Aponte: I have not asked vou to leave! You made no response to agreeing to the terms of the new owner which include removal of stored items in garage! In fact the only response I got from you is about the inspection I plan to do the 18th for the buyer!
Rodriguez: It's funny how I can barely get my vehicle up the poorly maintained icy road - not to mention how many people got their cars stuck. How should I get a moving vehicle up here? Or better yet an ambulance for my daughter if needed?
Aponte: This has nothing to do with what we were just speaking about Fact is that if I can get up and down emergency vehicles should be able to as well. This has been an unusually cold and snow filled Winter. So maybe vou should consider relocating to a better and more easily accessible Location. I will see vou on the 18th at 1:45
....
February 16, 2011:
Rodriguez: Just to clarify the appt was for Friday not Thursday - and sorry in advance but I must cancel. My daughter had another seizure and she has to go to Vassar Hosp on Friday for testing. Can you make it on Tuesday 2/22 same time?
Aponte: U r right, I meant Friday. What time are u back from appointment? How about your husband? Saturday works as well. Have you arranged for storage?
....
Aponte: Just spoke w my lawyer for management company... We will accept your rescheduling appointment for Friday if you provide verification of medical appointment for your daughter. The prospective new owner is very concerned about continuing your lease with you Childs medical situation and will probably not want to rent to vou. I think we need to let you know that we will not be renting to you! Please plan on rel Please make plans to relocate. We will give you Until end of March. Respond to me. Not to mr Morelli Blanca
Rodriguez: What are you talking about?
Aponte: Exactly what I said. You have cancelled our appointment because of issues with your daughter's illness. We want verification of your appointment. That being said... The new owner has decided not to continue to rent to you because your ...

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