NY Cracks Down on Source-of-Income Discrimination

New York Attorney General Letitia James recently announced the launch of a new online complaint portal for New Yorkers to report instances of housing discrimination based on source of income. A new law, which took effect in April 2019, makes it illegal to deny someone housing based on the type of lawful income she receives and applies to nearly all types of housing in New York State.

Source-of-income discrimination is often directed at those whose lawful income comes from sources other than a paycheck, including Social Security payments, any form of government assistance, or child support. Lawful sources of income now protected under the law include:

  • Any form of federal, state, or local public assistance (such as cash assistance);
  • Any form of federal, state, or local housing assistance (such as Section 8 vouchers);
  • Child support;
  • Alimony;
  • Foster care subsidies;
  • Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI); and
  • Any other form of lawful income or government assistance.

Most properties are included in the April 2019 amendments to the New York State Human Rights Law. The only exceptions are: one- or two-family homes occupied by the owner; room rentals in properties for individuals of the same sex, such as college dormitories or boarding houses where all residents are of the same sex; and housing intended for seniors.

Anyone attempting to rent or sell a housing unit can be accountable for discrimination; this includes owners, management companies, brokers, realtors, co-op boards, and condo associations.

Types of discriminatory behavior may include:

  • Listings or advertisements that use phrases such as “no Section 8/no DSS/no SSI,” “no payment programs,” or “apartment has not yet been approved for any vouchers/subsidies.”
  • Refusing to rent, sell, or otherwise deny housing based on use of legal sources of income.
  • Providing different terms or privileges or denying the use of facilities to residents based on source of income, such as a rooftop patio that’s available to all residents except those with a voucher.

“Every New Yorker deserves safe and decent housing, regardless of their lawful source of income,” James said in a statement. “Across New York State, landlords, rental agents, and brokers continue to post ads specifying that they will not accept vouchers or housing assistance--an act that is blatantly unlawful and discriminatory. This new portal will allow New Yorkers to report these instances of discrimination and help my office hold bad actors accountable.”