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1. What is discrimination in housing under the New York City Human Rights Law?
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, Alienage or Citizenship Status (non-citizen or immigration 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.
2. Who can I file a housing complaint against?
The NYC Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination by owners, lessors, managing agents, or any person having the right to sell, rent, or lease—or approve the sale, rental, or leasing of a housing accommodation. This can include landlords, superintendents, building managers, managing agents, brokers, realtors, and salespersons. Employment agencies and labor organizations are covered by the Law regardless of size.
3. Does the NYC Human Rights Law cover where I live?
The NYC Human Rights Law makes discrimination unlawful in housing accommodations, land, and commercial spaces (e.g. storefronts) in the five boroughs of the City of New York. This includes private properties and public housing, including temporary housing shelters.
Your housing situation is not covered by the law if you reside in:
4.Can my landlord evict me for filing a complaint of discrimination?
5. I have questions about whether my rent or rent increase is lawful, or whether my apartment rent-stabilized or rent-controlled; where can I get answers?
If you have questions about your apartment’s rent history or rent protections you should contact the New York State Homes and Community Renewal. Learn more information or call the Rent Info Line: (718) 739-6400.
6. Can a landlord and/or management company and/or broker refuse to rent to me because I get Section 8 and/or LINC and/or other public assistance that I will use to pay my rent?
No. Refusing to rent an apartment to an individual because they receive local, state, or federal public assistance is discrimination on the basis of lawful source of income and is unlawful under the NYC Human Rights Law. The person or company discriminating against you must have the right to sell, rent, or lease—or approve such action—for at least one housing accommodation within New York City that has six or more housing units.
7. Can a landlord and/or management company and/or broker charge me a higher rent or ask for more fees because I get Section 8 and/or LINC and/or other public assistance that I will use to pay my rent?
No. Being offered different terms or conditions in the sale, rental, or leasing of an apartment because you receive local, state, or federal public assistance is discrimination on the basis of lawful source of income and is unlawful under the NYC Human Rights Law. The person or company discriminating against you must have the right to sell, rent, or lease—or approve such action—for at least one housing accommodation within New York City that has six or more housing units.
8. Can my landlord refuse to make reasonable accommodations for me because I am disabled (e.g. install a rap, put in grab bars, move me to a lower floor, etc.), or require me to pay for these changes?
No. Refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability can be an unlawful violation of the NYC Human Rights Law. The Law can also require the landlord to pay for an accommodation if it is deemed “reasonable,” which means it would not cause the landlord undue hardship. The Law can require landlords, coops, and condominiums to make reasonable accommodation for disabled tenants, shareholders, or owners. These accommodations can include structural changes, such as building a ramp at the main entrance to the building to provide wheelchair access or installing grab bars in a bathroom. Reasonable accommodations can also involve a change to rules or policies, 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.
9. I need a parking space in my apartment building as a reasonable accommodation for my disability. My landlord says all the spots are occupied and there is a five-year waiting list. As a reasonable accommodation, must my landlord put me in a spot immediately, or can he put me at the top of the waiting list?
Typically, a landlord is not required to displace one tenant in order to grant a reasonable accommodation for another. Most likely, the landlord would only be required to place you at the top of the waiting list. Short of displacing another tenant, landlords can be required to think creatively about other potential solutions that could reasonably accommodate your disability.
10. I rely on a wheelchair and there are stairs at the entrance of my apartment building. The building owner wants to build a lift as a reasonable accommodation but I'm afraid the lift will breakdown frequently. I would much prefer a ramp going into the building. Do I have a choice under the NYC Human Rights Law?
Although the Human Rights Law requires that landlords reasonably accommodate tenants with disabilities, it does not require that landlords necessarily provide you with the accommodation you would prefer. However, if you require a ramp or lift and you have requested a ramp, unless it poses an “undue hardship,” the landlord should grant the accommodation you have requested.
11. My building is undergoing an elevator renovation. I use a wheelchair and live on the fourth floor, and I will not be able to get up to my apartment during the three months the elevator will be out. Does the coop/owner have to make an accommodation?
Your landlord should, first and foremost, provide ample notice to the residents in the building about the planned elevator outage. Once you have notice of the elevator outage, you can request a reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodations in this situation can include, but are not limited to, one of the following: relocating the resident to the ground floor of the building if an apartment of suitable size to meet the family’s needs is available, relocating the resident to another building if the housing provider has multiple buildings on one site, relocating the resident to another complex, paying any reasonable moving expenses, paying for hotel or other residential option, providing services (i.e. groceries delivery, mail delivery to the individual), providing assistance to navigate the stairs, providing rent abatement if resident cannot safely stay in the apartment.
12. I need my bathtub replaced with a roll-in shower because I can no longer lift my legs over the sides of the bathtub. The owner says I must pay for this accommodation but I thought the NYC Human Rights Law says that owners must pay for accommodations. Who has to pay?
If you rent your apartment, under the Human Rights Law, the landlord is required to pay for the accommodation. However, if you live in a rent-regulated apartment, this is subject to the rules and regulations set by the New York State Division of Homes and Community Renewal.
13. My neighbor is bothering/harassing me, is there anything I can do?
Yes, if your neighbor is harassing you because of a protected category, then you may have a claim under the NYC Human Rights Law
14. Can a landlord run a credit check or a criminal background check on me for an apartment?
Yes. A housing provider can lawfully check your credit history or criminal history for the purposes of housing. But, if a housing provider denied you housing on the basis of your credit or criminal history, and you believe this reason was just a cover-up, or pretext, for discriminating against you on the basis of another protected category such as your age, race, national origin, sexual orientation (or one of the other protected housing categories), then please call 311 or (718) 722-3131 and ask for the NYC Commission on Human Rights or send us an inquiry.
15. If my housing case is successful, 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: