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 superintendents, 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 Covers all the same characteristics, but also protects based on creed, age, sexual orientation, marital status or military status.

Most Housing Is Included

In New York State, antidiscrimination 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

Prohibited Actions

These Laws apply to the sale or rental of housing and also to mortgage lending. They cover some very specific actions. Here are some typical examples:

  • Refusing to rent, sell finance, insure or negotiate for housing;
  • Making housing unavailable;
  • Setting different terms or conditions, or providing unequal services;
  • Printing or circulation a discriminatory advertisement;
  • Refusing to make or provide information for a loan, or imposing different terms or conditions;
  • 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 modifications to a dwelling or common use area to accommodate a person’s disability;
  • Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in policies or services if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing.

In addition, any multifamily 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.

Filing a Complaint

If you have questions or believe you have been a victim of housing discrimination, the following agencies may be able to help. You can find contact information on the back of this brochure:

  • The New York State Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau investigates and prosecutes discriminatory policies, and patterns or practices of discrimination based on the federal Fair Housing Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, and other fair housing laws. The Bureau is committed to combating housing discrimination throughout the State of New York.
    http://www.ag.ny.gov/civil-rights/complaint-forms  General Helpline: 1-800-771-7755
  • The New York State Division of Human Rights handles individual complaints of discrimination. You have one year after an alleged violation to file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights.
    http://www.dhr.ny.gov/how-file-complaint  Toll Free: 1-888-392-3644
  • The U.S. Department of housing and Urban Development (HUD) handles individual complaints of discrimination based on the federal Fair Housing Act. You have one year after an alleged violation to file a complaint with HUD.
    https://portal.hud.gov/FHEO903/Form903/Form903Start.action Hotline: 800-669-9777


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