Have you ever experienced discrimination when trying to get housing?
The U.S. Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, or gender and requires reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities. Many state laws also prohibit discrimination in private housing.
New York City has led the nation in fair housing legislation and practice. In 1958, the Fair Housing Practices Law gave the city the power to investigate allegations of discrimination in private housing. This was the first state legislation in the country that prohibited discrimination in private housing.
Research shows fair housing provides economic and social benefits to everyone, not just members of protected classes. Members of protected classes bring new ideas and energy to a community that can increase economic activity and create jobs. Allowing people to live where they wish helps build relationships and connections that can lead to more employment and civic engagement.
This post gives a brief description of New York’s fair housing regulations. If you are trying to buy, finance, or rent a home or apartment in New York, this post will provide helpful information on the city’s anti-discrimination laws. If you are a seller, landlord, or realtor, this information may help you abide by these statutes. This post may also be of general interest if you live or are moving to New York.
What Are Anti-Discrimination Laws in New York?
Anti-discrimination Laws protect certain classes of people from discrimination in housing. Under federal, state, and city statutes, it is illegal for any person who sells, rents, or leases housing to discriminate based on one or more characteristics. These characteristics include:
- national origin
- sexual orientation
- gender identity or expression
- military status
- marital status
- lawful source of income
- familial status
The laws apply to property owners, landlords, and residence managers. For example, they are not allowed to:
- State or imply that a rental unit is not available when it is available
- Quote a different rate to members of a protected class than others
- Set a different income standard for members of a protected class
- Enforce different policies, such as rent due dates for members of a protected class
- Refuse to rent to a tenant who has children or raise a security deposit based on the number of children who will live in the apartment
- Refuse to waive a “no pet” policy for tenants that require a service, assistance, or emotional support animal
Landlords may set standards for selecting tenants for valid business reasons, such as requiring employment references and background checks, as long as they consistently apply the standards to all prospective tenants.
Real estate professionals must also comply with all fair housing and anti-discrimination laws. Real estate brokers and agents are not permitted to discriminate based on any protected characteristic when negotiating a sale, rental, or lease. For example, they are not permitted to:
- State or imply that a property is not available when it is available
- Quote a different price to members of a protected class
- Discriminate because it is the preference of a seller or landlord
- Encourage prospective buyers or renters belonging to a protected class toward or away from specific neighborhoods, locations or buildings
- Pressure a client or employee to violate anti-discrimination laws
- Refuse to sell or rent to a victim of domestic violence
What is the NYC Fair Housing Notice?
The NYC Fair Housing Notice, issued by the New York Department of State, Division of Licensing Services describes the rights of buyers and tenants under anti-discrimination laws and how people can file a complaint if they believe they are victims of housing discrimination.
If you believe you have been the victim of housing discrimination, you may file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR). You can do this by:
- Completing a complaint form available from the DHR website: www.dhr.ny.gov
- Contacting a DHR office in person, by telephone, or by mail to get a complaint form and help in filing a complaint
- Contacting the Fair Housing HOTLINE at (844)-862-8703
You may also file a complaint with the NY Department of State, Division of Licensing Services.
Complaints may be filed by:
- Completing a complaint form available from the Department of State’s website: https://www.dos.ny.gov/licensing/complaint_links.html
- Contacting one of the Department’s offices by telephone or by mail to obtain a complaint form
- Calling the Department at (518) 474-4429
Finally, the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity is the federal agency that enforces the Fair Housing Act. It can either investigate a complaint or refer you to a state agency. You can contact the agency through its website at https://www.hud.gov/fairhousing
There is no fee charged to you for these services. It is unlawful for anyone to retaliate against you for filing a complaint.
Does Housing Discrimination Still Exist in NYC?
While federal and local anti-discrimination laws prohibit discrimination by individuals, many people believe systematic housing discrimination still exists in NYC.
Co-ops make up about 75 percent of Manhattan’s apartments. Co-ops are managed by a small group of shareholders and aren’t legally required to disclose their reasons for accepting or denying applications. Therefore, many prospective buyers are turned away without knowing the reason. The buyer screening process is long and secretive for most co-ops. Many prospects believe their applications were rejected for discriminatory reasons, but without evidence, discrimination is hard to prove.
A bill introduced in the state senate in 2021 would require New York City co-ops to follow a consistent application process that includes deadlines, clear communication, and written statements of approval or denial provided to the applicant and to a state agency for discrimination monitoring.
Voucher holders also experience frequent discrimination by landlords and realtors. Discrimination against voucher holders is the most common form of housing discrimination in NYC.
Rental assistance vouchers provide supplemental funds to individuals who need housing because of evictions, disability, or domestic violence. Vouchers are intended to give families the opportunity to live in higher-income neighborhoods that otherwise might be out of reach.
Because source of income isn’t one of the characteristics of a protected class, housing discrimination against voucher holders as well as applicants using Social Security and other non-salary income to pay rent happens regularly.
If you believe you have experienced housing discrimination in NYC, you may contact the DHR or the New York Department of State. You may also file a lawsuit in state court. Housing discrimination can be hard to prove, so consider contacting an experienced attorney for assistance. The Fair Housing Justice Center and New York Lawyers for Public Interest may be able to help. Also note that the fact you’ve filed a complaint may be made available to landlords, managers, or realtors that you may work with in the future.
We hope you found this post, What is NYC Fair Housing Notice? useful. Be sure to check out our post Choosing The Best Apartment Rental for more great information.
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