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Discrimination Complaints

The Law
  • Landlords may not refuse to rent to, renew the lease of, or otherwise discriminate against, any person or group of persons because of race, creed (religion), color, national origin, sex, disability, age, marital status, or familial status.

  • In New York City, tenants are further protected against discrimination with respect to lawful occupation, sexual orientation, partnership status, and immigration status. People with AIDS or who archive-positive, as well as recovering alcoholics, are also protected from discrimination.

  • Further, NYC landlords are prohibited from discriminating against tenants based on lawful source of income which includes income from social security or any form of federal, state, or local public assistance including section 8 vouchers (Executive Law § 296(5); NYC Admin.) Code § 8-107).

  • Landlords may not discriminate against any person who has children living with them, by refusing to rent an apartment or by insisting upon unfavorable lease terms on the basis of the person having children.

  • However, this restriction does not apply to housing units for senior citizens which are subsidized or insured by the federal government. In addition, a lease may not require that tenants remain childless during their tenancy (Real Property Law §237-a).

What Does This Mean?

The Executive Law does not give preference to any one particular race, creed, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, marital status, family status, or sexual orientation. If somebody denies housing to you, and the reason is one of these characteristics, whatever that characteristic happens to be, it is illegal.

Examples:

  • A landlord instructs a real estate agent not to rent apartments in his building to "minorities"
  • A landlord refuses to rent apartments to single people
  • A housing complex has an "adults only" rental policy

Anybody who sells, rents, or leases housing must follow the Executive Law. This includes:

  • Owners
  • Tenants
  • Subtenants
  • Managing agents
  • Real estate brokers
  • Real estate agents
  • Agents and employees of the above persons

Examples:

  • A family member who assist her relative in selling her home cannot discriminate
  • A tenant of an apartment cannot discriminate if subletting the apartment to another person

What Is Prohibited?

The Executive Law makes it illegal to discriminate in the sale, rental, or leasing of housing because of a protected characteristic. Specifically, the law makes it illegal to do the following because of a protected characteristic:

  • Refuse to sell, rent, or lease housing
    • Example: An owner refuses to sell a home to any Asian Americans

  • Discriminate in the terms, conditions, or privileges in the sale, rental, or leasing of housing
    • Example: A landlord requires higher security deposits from African American families in connection with renting apartments
    • Example: A homeowner decides to require a larger down payment from a Latino family in connection with the sale of a home

  • Discriminate in providing facilities or services in connection with the sale, rental, or leasing of housing
    • Example: A landlord refuses to allow Latino children only to play unattended at a playground.

  • Print or circulate a statement, advertisement, or publication expressing a limitation, specification, or discrimination in the sale, rental, or leasing of housing
    • Example: A landlord asks all persons who call in response to a housing advertisement “what kind of name” they have

  • Use an application for housing that expresses any limitation, specification, or discrimination in the sale, rental, or leasing of housing
    • Example: A real estate application asks questions about a protected characteristic.

  • Make any record or inquiry in connection with the prospective purchase, rental, or lease of a housing accommodation that expresses any limitation, specification, or discrimination
    • Example: A landlord asks the religion of prospective tenants.

  • Discriminate against a person with a seeing impairment because of their use of a guide dog, or a person with a hearing impairment because of their use of a hearing dog. Discriminate against a person with a disability because of their use of a service dog. Discriminate against a person with disability because of their use of an emotional support animal

The Executive Law also prohibits participating in discrimination or retaliating against someone for helping to enforce the Law. Specifically, the Law prohibits:

  • Aiding someone in violating the Executive Law
    • Example: A real estate agent carries out a landlord’s instructions not to rent to single men

  • Coercing or compelling someone to violate the Executive Law
    • Example: A co-op board informs an owner that it will not approve a sale to an African American buyer

  • Retaliating against someone for opposing housing discrimination, filing a complaint, or testifying or assisting in any enforcement action under the Law
    • Example: A real estate agency fires an employee for reporting that a landlord refused to rent to her Latino client

In addition to the above restrictions, the Executive Law adds additional obligations on real estate brokers, real estate salespersons, and their employees. Specifically, it is illegal for them to:

  • Refuse to negotiate for the sale, rental, or leasing of housing
    • Example: A real estate agent refuses to negotiate for the rental of housing with a person with a disability

  • Represent that housing is not available for sale, rental, or lease when it is available
    • Example: A real estate salesperson shows housing to a white person but then tells a minority person that the same housing is not available for rental

It is also illegal for a real estate board to exclude or expel any person, or discriminate against a person in the terms, conditions, and privileges of membership on the board on account of a protected characteristic.

In addition to prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, the Executive Law requires persons covered by the law to undertake efforts to accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities so they can live in housing. Specifically, the Executive Law requires covered persons:

  • To permit a person with a disability to make reasonable modifications of the housing, at the person’s expense, if the modifications are necessary to allow the person to have full enjoyment of the housing
    • Example: A landlord permits a person in a wheelchair to widen the internal doors of his apartment to accommodate the wheelchair

  • To make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations are necessary to permit a person with a disability equal opportunity to use and enjoy the housing, including reasonable modification to common use portions of the dwelling
    • Example: A landlord makes an exception to a “no pet” policy to permit a tenant to keep an emotional support animal where the animal allows the person to use and enjoy their home.
    • Example: A landlord provides and pays for the installation of a ramp at the common entrance way to the building

  • Must provide that in all buildings constructed after March 13, 1991:

  • The public and common areas of housing are readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities
    • Example: The entry to such a building is accessible to a person in a wheelchair

  • All doors are sufficiently wide to allow passage by persons in wheelchairs

  • All multi-family buildings contain accessible passageways, fixtures, outlets, bathrooms, and kitchens
    • Example: Bathroom walls are able to support grab bars
Click here for more information on housing discrimination

If you believe you have experienced discrimination during your housing search or while living at a property, you may submit a formal complaint
with the NYS Office of the Attorney General

Click here to access and fill out the Discrimination Complaint Form

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman
State of New York
Office of the Attorney General
Civil Rights Bureau
120 Broadway, 23rd Floor
New York, New York 10271-0332
P: (212) 416-8250 F: (212) 416-8074
Website: http://www.ag.ny.gov

See www.stonybrook.edu/titleix for more information and/or to report an incident.

 

You are always welcome to contact us to discuss your circumstances in greater detail:

The Office of Commuter Student Services & Off Campus Living
Student Activities Center (SAC), Room 225
(631) 632-7353 | commuter_services@stonybrook.edu
See www.stonybrook.edu/titleix for more information and/or to report an incident.