Source of Income Discrimination
What is discrimination based on lawful source of income?
Discrimination based on lawful source of income is the illegal practice by landlords, owners, and real estate brokers of refusing to rent to current or prospective tenants seeking to pay for housing with housing assistance vouchers, subsidies, or other forms of public assistance. It is unlawful for landlords and brokers to publish any advertisements, including online or print, that indicate a refusal to accept these programs, or express a preference for non-voucher holders.
Lawful source of income includes many kinds of subsidies or assistance from federal, state, or local public sources such as Section 8, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA), CityFHEPS, G.I. Bill Housing Allowances
, and Advantage program vouchers, among others.
Source of income discrimination has been illegal in NYC since 2008, when then-Council Member Bill de Blasio sponsored a bill to include source of income protections in the NYC Human Rights Law, one of the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the nation.
How does the Commission fight discrimination based on lawful source of income?
In recent years, the Commission has significantly increased its efforts to combat source of income discrimination through aggressively investigating and prosecuting landlords and brokers of various sizes citywide who refuse to rent to tenants who pay rent with housing vouchers and other types of housing assistance. The Commission is also obtaining immediate relief from discrimination through emergency interventions, proactively fighting discrimination through testing and investing in public outreach and education. In 2018, the Commission formed a source of income unit to address and combat this type of discrimination in housing.
The Commission has created a new mechanism to respond more quickly to urgent source of income discrimination cases. Where someone has faced a discriminatory eviction or denial of housing by a landlord or broker because they use housing assistance vouchers or subsidy, the Commission’s Source of Income Unit contacts the landlord or broker to educate them about source of income discrimination. These contacts and interactions can result in that person securing or maintaining housing.
- In 2018 and 2019, the Commission resolved over 300 source of income cases through emergency interventions, resulting in voucher holders preserving their vouchers, accessing housing, and/or maintaining housing.
From 2018 to 2019, the Commission filed 176 cases of discrimination based on lawful source of income against landlords and brokers across the city.
- Since 2014, the Commission has obtained over $780,000 in damages and penalties for complainants who have faced source of income discrimination.
- The Commission has successfully negotiated case resolutions in which landlords agree to set aside a certain portion of their holdings specifically for voucher-holding tenants, in addition to other terms of the settlements.
The Commission revitalized its testing program in 2016. Many of the tests conducted in housing discrimination were implemented to root out discriminatory landlords and brokers. To identify source of income discrimination, the Commission often uses matched pair testing, which involves two individuals applying for the same apartment who are identical in every way except that one is seeking to use a housing assistance voucher or subsidy.
- Hired new testing staff to conduct more than 240 source of income discrimination tests in Fiscal Year 2019.
- Partnered with the Mayor’s Office for Data Analytics (MODA) in 2016 to explore how the Commission can use data to enhance its testing program. MODA helped the Commission identify neighborhoods with low crime, great schools, and an available housing stock, but where very few voucher holders live. This helped the Commission target certain neighborhoods for testing. Read more here.
The Commission continues its robust public outreach efforts to inform New Yorkers about their housing rights under the New York City Human Rights Law and prevent future acts of discrimination by training landlords and brokers about their obligations.
- The Commission has held hundreds of workshops and outreach events to educate tenants about their housing rights under the law, including an annual symposium on protections in housing under the NYC Human Rights Law.
- The Commission collaborates with housing advocates, elected officials, and City agencies, including the Make the Road, New York Legal Assistance Group, WIN-NY, African Services Committee, Urban Justice Center, Legal Services, Human Resources Administration, Department of Homeless Services, Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and NYC Housing Authority to address housing discrimination among vulnerable communities and inform people of their rights.
How has the Commission won justice for people like me?
The Commission has resolved over 350 cases of source of income discrimination in the past two years. Here are a few examples.
- In October 2019, the Commission settled a case involving source of income discrimination by Michael Partridge Realty Corp., in which a frontline staffer of the realty company told a prospective tenant that vouchers were not accepted. The Commission negotiated $5,000 in emotional distress damages to the victim and ordered anti-discrimination training for the Respondents and the creation of an anti-discrimination policy.
- In September 2019, resulting from Commission testing, the Commission fined Abeco Management $20,000 for refusing to accept tenants with vouchers. The Commission also ordered the company, which owns 40 buildings, to train all staff on the NYC Human Rights Law and provide the Commission’s Fair Housing notice to all tenants.
- In August 2019, the Commission ordered a landlord with 15 buildings to pay $20,000 in emotional distress damages and $4,000 in civil penalties for refusing to accept a prospective tenant’s Section 8 voucher. The tenant had lost her voucher as a result of the discrimination and had to seek alternative housing options. In addition to her voucher restoration, the landlord agreed to train all employees with job duties related to reviewing and accepting prospective tenants, and to post the Commission’s Fair Housing poster in all their buildings in New York City.
Read below a selection of media clips on the work of the Commission in this area:
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Download: Lawful Source of Income Fact Sheet:
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FAQs for Brokers/Agents/Owners re: Lawful Source of Income
FAQs for Landlords re: Lawful Source of Income
FAQs for Tenants re: Lawful Source of Income
What do I do if I experience discrimination based on lawful source of income?
If you experience source of income discrimination, we can help. Report it to the NYC Commission on Human Rights by dialing 311 and asking for “Human Rights,” call (212) 416-0197, or use our Report Discrimination form.