The real estate industry aims to provide every individual with equal housing opportunities. Working in this industry in a place like New York City, you will meet different people, such as brokers and licensed salespeople, and experience the great diversity of this city.
Still, as progressive as the city seems, it faces a share of housing discrimination violations.
The New York Department of State and Human Rights has partnered with the Governor’s office to ensure that New York State fair housing laws are enforced.
The new regulations that came into force in June 2020 came at a time of civil unrest that swept across NYC.
The Housing Rights initiative alleged that 88 landlords and associate brokers in the city discriminated against tenants seeking to use Section 8 of housing vouchers.
Let’s look at what the law says so you can keep yourself aware of any unfair practices and call out anything you feel is discriminatory in your lease.
Fair Housing Act In New York – How We Are Protected
The Fair Housing Act applies to all US cities, including NYC, working at a federal level to protect tenants and buyers in both private and public housing. The law says that any person looking to buy, rent or finance a home will not be discriminated against based on their origin, race, sex, status (presence of children), disability (physical or mental) or religion.
The Human Rights Law protects against the same and makes it illegal to discriminate based on age, sexual orientation, creed, marital status, or military status.
Local governments provide additional protections, such as the New York City Human Rights Law, which prohibits housing discrimination based on citizenship status, gender, partnership status, lawful occupation, gender identity, and lawful source of income.
Classes Of People Who Are Protected
A protected class comprises anyone who has historically been discriminated against due to certain characteristics. NYC has over 17 classes protected from housing discrimination.
Real estate agents, lenders and landlords are particularly prohibited from discriminating against buyers and renters based on the following characteristics:
- Skin Color
- Citizenship status
- National Origin
- Marital status
- Sexual Orientation
- Status in Military
- Presence of children
What Exactly Is Prohibited?
The National Fair Housing Alliance says that over 28,000 cases of housing discrimination were reported nationwide in 2019 alone.
Based on reported cases, here are some of the guaranteed protections to know:
- A homeowner or landlord can’t refuse a person in the protected class to see or book their furnished apartments for rent in New York.
- No one should be quoted or charged a higher rent than what the market provides
- A landlord or homeowner can’t ask for more security deposit or refuse to return the same to a renter
- You cannot be limited from accessing services, privileges, or facilities of dwelling
- A landlord cannot abdicate their role to keep their property in good condition or meet other similar responsibilities
How To Look Out For Discrimination In The Screening Process
It’s simple, the tenant should seek to know legitimate questions and those that may be discriminatory. The Human Rights Law forbids homeowners from asking questions that could reveal a person’s protected class.
Some of the questions that may be evidence of discrimination are:
- Enquiring about a passport or marriage certificate
- Asking for medical documentation
- Requiring that you reveal national origin, race, citizenship status, disability status, sexual orientation, especially if the screening procedure is not applied to everyone.
How To File A Housing Discrimination Complaint
If you think you may be experiencing housing discrimination of any kind, it’s your right to file a complaint.
Examples of harmful actions include eviction notices, coercive speech, and other vengeful acts. There are several options you can use:
- File a complaint with the Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) – this office enforces the Federal Fair Housing Act. It may decide to investigate your complaint or refer you to other agencies on a city and state level that can review your claim.
- File a complaint with NYCCHR or New York Commission on Human Rights. You will be referred to one of the commissions’ attorneys to discuss the allegations and guide you through the whole process.
- File a complaint through the NYC State Division of Human Rights, which enforces fair housing laws in New York.
Note that you are required to complain within one year of the alleged act of discrimination, and you are only allowed to file a complaint with one court or agency at a time.
If you think you are a victim, reach out to these rights advocacy groups here in NYC, which are able to help.
How Do Fair Housing Laws Affect Your Home Search?
Well, you now know the fair housing policies in NYC, but you probably need to know how the Fair Housing Act affects buyers. If you need a house, you are more likely to consult a buyer’s agent to help you find a home that fits your needs. They understand well how the market works, but there are facts they won’t disclose to prospective buyers.
Housing laws dictate that a real agent should discriminate against any of the protected classes. For instance, they shouldn’t tell the buyer that a certain neighborhood is dominated by a certain age or ethnic group, even when the buyer insists that this will help determine where to live.
The law bars them from disclosing information on protected classes to buyers. While they won’t go to details, they can point the buyer to the right areas.
Rental Properties Exempt From Nyc Fair Housing Laws
In New York State, nearly every housing type is covered under the fair housing laws, with only four exceptions as follows:
- Single or double family buildings where the owner also occupies.
- Same-sex rentals such as school dormitories are exempted from protections on sex discrimination.
- Rental housing where the owner occupies
- Housing for senior citizens
Unlike other states, only owner buildings with up to 2 rental units are exempt in NYC compared to 4 rental units on a national level. Also, the fair housing laws in NYC do not exempt member-only clubs like other states.
Have any questions regarding these or related housing laws in NYC? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer you as appropriately as possible.