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1. What are my obligations under the NYC Human Rights Law as a housing provider?
The NYC Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of these protected categories:
Age, Race, Color, Religion/Creed, National Origin, Gender, Pregnancy, Gender Identity and Gender Expression, Disability, Sexual Orientation, Marital or Partnership Status, Immigration or Citizenship Status, Lawful Source of Income (including housing subsidies such as Section 8, and LINC and public assistance programs such as SSD and SSI), Lawful Occupation, Family Status (including Presence of Children), Status as a Victim of Domestic Violence, Sex Offenses or Stalking.
This protection includes discrimination because of an individual’s actual status as well as what people think or perceive an individual’s status to be. Individuals are also protected based on their association with other individuals who fall into a protected category.
As the provider of a housing accommodation, you cannot discriminate by refusing to rent, sell, lease, or offer different terms, conditions, or privileges based on these categories.
This includes making statements or posting advertisements that directly or even directly suggest any limitation or discrimination based on any of these protected categories.
For example, you cannot suggest that a housing accommodation is “good for working people” because that would violate the Law by suggesting a limitation based on lawful source of income. Likewise, you cannot suggest that a housing accommodation is “appropriate for a family” because it suggests a limitation based on marital or partnership status.
2. Who must follow the NYC Human Rights Law in housing?
Under the NYC Human Rights Law, a housing provider is any person or entity that has the right to sell, rent or lease, or the right to approve the sale, rental or lease of a housing accommodation, whether already constructed or to be constructed, and includes any of that person or entity’s agents or employees. Landlords, managing agents, brokers and real estate agents are all subject to the Law’s requirements.
3. Are brokers and real estate agents responsible for discrimination in housing?
Yes, brokers and real estate agents are also prohibited from discriminating based on a protected category. A broker or real estate agent is liable for discriminatory statements and actions under the Law even if they are only communicating or carrying out what the owner or landlord has stated or wanted.
4. As a housing provider, what kind of reasonable accommodations do I have to provide?
The Law protects the rights of people with disabilities by requiring landlords, coops, and condominiums to make a reasonable accommodation for disabled tenants, shareholders, or owners. This can mean a structural change such as a building a ramp at the main entrance of the building to provide wheelchair access or installing grab bars in a bathroom. A reasonable accommodation can also involve a policy change such as permitting a tenant who is blind or has a psychological disability to have a guide dog or companion animal, despite a building’s “no pets” policy. The Law may require the landlord to pay for an accommodation if it is deemed reasonable – that is does not pose an undue hardship.
5. Do I have to accept public assistance to pay rent?
Yes, you must accept public assistance on the same terms you accept other sources of income, including wages and salaries from employment. Public assistance includes: Section 8, LINC, FEPS, SCRIE, DRIE, SSI, SSD, and other sources of local, state, and federal public assistance. The delay involved in filling out the paperwork and receiving payment is not a defense to denying an individual with public assistance an apartment.
6. Do I have to accept public assistance for a security deposit or a broker’s fee?
Yes. If a public assistance program provides for a security deposit or broker’s fee, you must accept it and may not demand that the deposit or fee be paid in cash. While you may collect a security deposit from a tenant with public assistance, you may not collect a higher security deposit than from tenants who do not receive public assistance.
7. I didn’t do anything wrong, but my broker or employee did—am I still liable?
Yes. Even if you did not personally discriminate against tenants or prospective tenants, you are still liable for violations of the Law by your employees and agents. It is in your interests to make sure that your employees and agents are educated about the requirements of the NYC Human Rights Law.
8. If I lose a discrimination case that has been filed against me, what remedies or damages can the Commission order?
The Commissioner can order a respondent to cease and desist from engaging in the unlawful conduct; offer a lease with certain terms and conditions; renew a lease; complete repairs; reduce or abate rent; build or provide a reasonable accommodation; reimburse the complainant for out-of-pocket costs; and pay for emotional distress damages, among other remedies. The Commissioner may also assess civil penalties (paid to the City of New York) of up to $125,000 for violations, and up to $250,000 for violations that are the result of willful, wanton or malicious conduct, as well as require respondents to take other actions such as training for managers and employees.
Get information about outcomes in discrimination cases: