The New York City Commission on Human Rights kicked off the New Year by charging five large landlords and brokerage firms with repeatedly discriminating against prospects based on their lawful source of income, a violation of the city’s Human Rights Law. Together, the landlords and brokerage firms control approximately 20,000 units citywide, according to the commission.
In the complaints, the commission charged the landlords and brokerage firms with a “pattern or practice” of discrimination for repeatedly refusing to accept prospects’ government assistance housing vouchers, including Section 8 and Living in Communities (LINC) vouchers. The complaints followed investigations proactively conducted by the commission and were the result of tips from prospective tenants and the commission’s testing program.
During its investigation, the commission said that the landlords and brokers repeatedly denied units to prospects and testers citing that tenants “did not meet the necessary income requirements” to rent, despite having housing vouchers that covered the rent or flatly refused to accept housing vouchers at all, both clear violations of the law.
“New York City does not tolerate any type of housing discrimination, plain and simple,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “No landlord should get away with turning away tenants because they use government assistance to pay rent, which is why we have significantly increased enforcement efforts to fight this form of discrimination and are working to ensure that everyone using housing vouchers can find and retain safe and affordable housing. These investigations are just a few of many that the Commission is investigating to root out bad acting landlords and hold them accountable.”
Since 2008, it has been illegal in New York City to discriminate against tenants based on lawful source of income. Lawful source of income includes any federal, state, or local public or housing assistance towards the payment of rent, including Section 8, Living in Communities (LINC), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA), Family Eviction Prevention Subsidy (FEPS), Special Exit and Prevention Supplement (SEPS), and Advantage program vouchers, among others. It is also unlawful for landlords and housing agents to publish any type of advertisement, whether online or print, that indicates a refusal to accept these programs.
The commission, which revitalized its testing program last year, has conducted more than 300 tests to root out source of income discrimination across the city and expects to file more cases against large landlords and brokers in the months ahead.
“Make no mistake, the Commission is cracking down on source of income housing discrimination,” said Commissioner and Chair of the NYC Commission on Human Rights Carmelyn P. Malalis. “The Commission is aggressively going after larger landlords and brokers who deprive vulnerable New Yorkers of safe and affordable housing. We have significantly increased testing in this area, a powerful tool in identifying violations, and are heavily investing in prevention by educating landlords, brokers, and housing providers and their employees about the law. No New Yorker should be turned away from housing because of how they pay their rent and the Commission will continue its increased enforcement so that every New Yorker with a voucher can find a safe place for themselves and their families to live.”