Fair Housing Laws: How We Are Protected
Federal, state, and local fair housing laws work to ensure that all individuals have equal housing opportunities. The federal Fair Housing Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, and various local laws, such as the New York City Human Rights Law, prohibit discrimination by housing providers (including owners, real estate agents, managing agents, building superintendants, cooperative and condominium boards) and lenders (including banks and mortgage companies).
The federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a person’s race, familial status (presence of children under age 18), color, national origin, religion, disability (physical or mental), or sex.
The New York State Human Rights Law protects all of the same characteristics as the federal Fair Housing Act but also makes it illegal to discriminate based on creed, age, sexual orientation, marital status, or military status.
Some local governments afford their residents additional protections. For example, the New York City Human Rights Law prohibits housing discrimination based on: gender, citizenship status, partnership status, gender identity, lawful occupation, and lawful source of income (including public assistance or housing assistance, social security, supplemental security income, pensions, annuities, or unemployment benefits).
Local laws in Buffalo, Hamburg, West Seneca, and Nassau County also prohibit source of income discrimination in housing.
Most Housing Is Included
In New York State, fair housing laws cover most housing, with three main exceptions:
- One or two family owner-occupied buildings;
- Room rentals in housing for individuals of the same sex; and
- Room rentals in owner-occupied housing.
Fair housing laws apply to the sale or rental of housing and also to mortgage lending. They cover some very specific actions. Some typical examples include:
- Refusing to rent, sell, finance, insure, or negotiate for housing;
- Making housing unavailable;
- Setting different terms or conditions, or providing unequal services;
- Printing or circulating a discriminatory advertisement;
- Refusing to make or provide information for a loan, or imposing different terms or conditions for a loan; or
- Harassing, threatening, intimidating, or coercing anyone, including sexual harassment.
Those with Disabilities Are Protected
Under the fair housing laws, a landlord may not:
- Refuse to make reasonable modificationsto a dwelling or common use area to accommodate a person’s disability; or
- Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in policies or services if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing.
In addition, any multi-family housing built after 1991 must comply with accessibility requirements to ensure that public and common use areas and units are accessible for people with disabilities.
Repairing the Damage
If discrimination has taken place, the laws direct that steps may be taken to remedy the situation. This can include:
- Requiring changes inpolicies and practices;
- Making the housing or loan available;
- Assessing money damages and/or attorneyfees; or
- Imposing civil fines and penalties.
Filing a Complaint
If you have questions or believe you have been a victim of housing discrimination, contact the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General's Office at 212-416-8250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.