Some people confuse fair housing rights with tenant rights. If you experience difficulties with your application, lease, lease renewal, services, or rent that you believe are the result of a discriminatory act (occurring because of your membership in a particular protected class [e.g., race, creed, national origin]), please refer to Rights and Responsibilities and contact the NYC Commission on Human Rights at 311.
However, when problems or misunderstandings between a tenant and their building owner, building superintendent, or management company are not the result of a discriminatory act (occurring because of your membership in a particular protected class [e.g., race, creed, national origin]), many other tenant rights resources are available to you. In general, tenant rights deal with landlord obligations, such as the Warranty of Habitability, rent payments, and lease renewals.
Some examples where tenant issues may become Fair Housing issues:
Some examples where tenant issues do not involve a fair housing violation:
When the landlord, broker, or owner screens you during your application process, you should carefully distinguish between legitimate questions about you and discriminatory ones that violate fair housing law.
Housing providers have a right to set financial and credit qualifications, a process that provides some assurance that the applicant will be a good tenant. Qualifications and inquiries must be applied equally to all applicants and must not be influenced by race, national origin or other protected factors.
Screening may include credit checks, work, and landlord references, personal references, number of people who will live in the unit, criminal background checks including the sex offender registry, home visits, and interviews. Whatever qualifying screening criteria a landlord uses, he or she should apply them equally to all applicants.
The Human Rights Law generally prohibits housing providers from asking direct or indirect questions that may reveal a person’s protected class. However, inquiries designed to qualify you for housing for senior citizens or people with disabilities are permissible.
Examples of inquiries that may be evidence of discrimination include:
Additional examples of inquiries that may be evidence of discrimination include:
These types of questions could be evidence of a fair housing violation and when in doubt, you should call the NYC Human Rights Commission and discuss your situation.
For resolving tenant complaints that do not involve a Fair Housing violation, visit HPD's Tenant Rights page.