Protected Classes Under New York State Anti-Housing Discrimination Laws
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The federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 protects individuals against housing discrimination on the basis on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. The New York Human Rights Law includes these federally protected classes, and also grants additional protections on the basis of citizenship or immigration status, age, marital status, military status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and lawful source of income. Both federal and state law also protect survivors of domestic violence from housing discrimination. Illegal discrimination is prohibited in both the sale and rental of housing. These laws cover most types of housing, with some limited exceptions.
These protections mean that landlords and lending agencies cannot deny housing and/or loans on the sole basis of an individual being part of these classes. For example, landlords cannot give preference to married applicants over single applicants or discriminate against individuals based on their sexual orientation. Similarly, a landlord cannot refuse to rent to transgender individuals. In terms of military status, a service member or reservist cannot be denied housing based on an assumption that they would be called to active duty before the terms of the lease are completed. Nor can a landlord evict a domestic violence survivor because of a disturbance caused by an abusive household member. Finally, New York State now prevents landlords and lenders from discriminating against individuals who receive Section 8, social security, disability, or any other lawful source of income.
Housing discrimination often goes unrecognized, as individuals in protected classes are not usually directly told: “You are not welcome here,” but are instead simply told: “Sorry, we have nothing available.” Such disguised discrimination can often only be uncovered through fair housing testing Testers are trained to do in-person or phone testing to collect evidence about possible housing discrimination. For example, a pair of testers might be used to investigate possible age discrimination in which a younger tester is first sent to inquire about an apartment. If the tester is told there is nothing available, an older tester could then be used to test for availability.
If you believe that you are being discriminated against in your attempt to secure and/or maintain housing because of your membership in one of the federal or state protected classes, please feel free to contact LawNY. LawNY is also looking for fair housing testers to help investigate housing discrimination in Western New York State. Testers are paid a stipend for their work.
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This article provides general information about this subject. Laws affecting this subject may have changed since this article was written. For specific legal advice about a problem you are having, get the advice of a lawyer. Receiving this information does not make you a client of our office.
Last Reviewed: February 10, 2023