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Homes and Community Renewal

Fair and Equitable Housing Office

Fair Housing FAQ's

 

WHAT ARE FAIR HOUSING LAWS?

A:  Federal, New York State and local laws protect people from discrimination and ensure that all people have equal access to housing opportunities. The federal Fair Housing Act and New York State Human Rights Law make it illegal for housing providers and lenders to discriminate. Housing discrimination also includes the refusal to make reasonable accommodations or modifications for people with disabilities, or failure to build certain multi-family housing so that it is accessible to people with disabilities.

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WHO IS PROTECTED UNDER FEDERAL AND NEW YORK STATE LAWS?

A:  The federal Fair Housing Act states that a person may not be discriminated against because of their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability or familial status (including families with minor children, pregnant women and adults in the process of obtaining custody of a minor child). In addition, the New York State Human Rights Law provides additional protection based on: age, marital status, military status and sexual orientation.

Source of Income is considered a protected class in some jurisdictions including New York City, Buffalo, Hamburg, West Seneca and Yonkers, as well as Nassau, Westchester and Suffolk counties.

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WHAT TYPE OF HOUSING IS COVERED?

A:  In New York State, almost all types of housing with three or more units are covered. Including but not limited to: condominiums, apartment buildings, assisted living projects, public housing authorities, HOPE VI projects, transitional housing, and SROs (single room occupancy units) designed for more than overnight stays, homeless shelters used as a residence, cooperatives, and hospices.

There are 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 buildings.

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WHO MUST OBEY THE LAW?

A:  Everyone who provides housing or lending for housing, including: 

  • Landlords
  • Real estate operators, brokers and agents
  • Savings & loan associations, mortgage lenders, banks, or other financial institutions
  • Apartment managers
  • Rental agents
  • Builders, contractors and developers
  • Homeowners advertising and selling their own home
  • Caretakers and janitors
  • Condo and townhome owners associations
  • Government Agencies

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ARE THERE ACCESSIBILITY STANDARDS IN NEW YORK STATE?

A:  In general, properties that were built after 1991 with four or more units and that have an elevator are required to be built in a manner that is accessible to persons with disabilities including: having an accessible entrance and exit route; usable public and common areas; doors and hallways that are wide enough for wheelchairs; providing an accessible route through the unit; placement of environmental controls (light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats) in a manner to be accessible, providing reinforced bathroom walls for easy installation of grab bars, and kitchen and bathrooms that can be used by people in wheelchairs.

Detached single family homes that are funded in any way by federal, state, or local funds may also be required to be accessible under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the ADA, which have additional requirements.

For more information, visit Fair Housing Accessibility First or see the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standard

For additional information, review the Supplement to Notice of Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines: Questions and Answers about the Guidelines

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WHAT ARE REASONABLE ACCOMODATIONS FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES?

A:  A reasonable accommodation is a change in rules, policies, or practices that may be necessary to enable a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use or enjoy a dwelling, such as assistance in filling out a rental application or allowing a unit transfer. The Fair Housing Act requires that housing providers must "make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling."  One example of a common reasonable accommodation is the waiver of a "no pets" policy for an individual with a disability who requires an animal because of his / her disability. There are narrow and specific reasons that a request for reasonable accommodation may be denied.  

View the HUD-DOJ Joint Memos on Reasonable Accommodations (PDF) or Reasonable Modifications (PDF) .

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DOES THE TENANT PAY FOR A REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION?

A:  If housing was built prior to 1991, landlords must allow residents with disabilities who wish to renovate or change their units to do so. However, residents must pay for any modifications and may also be required to pay for removing the modification and restoring the unit to its original state. 

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WHAT ARE UNLAWFUL ACTIVITIES?

A:  The fair housing laws apply to the sale or rental of housing and also to mortgage and insurance lending. Some examples include:

Refuse to rent, sell or negotiate for housing or lending services.
Discriminate in terms, conditions, privileges or services.
Including:

  • Steering people to certain neighborhoods based on their race and the racial or ethnic make-up of the neighborhood.
  • Charging higher rental fees or security deposits.
  • Segregating residents in an apartment complex by restricting their options to particular buildings or certain floors based on race, familial status or other protected classes.

Make print or publish discriminatory statements or advertisements.
Including:

  • Ads which state: “no children,” “adults preferred,” “mature couples only”.
  • Oral statements which are discriminatory in nature such as “We don’t want children on the second floor”.

Make false representations about the availability of dwellings.
Interfere, coerce, or intimidate:
Including:

  • Against those exercising a fair housing right or those aiding others in exercising their fair housing rights
  • Against a protected class of residents, visitors or associates.
  • In an effort to deny or limit fair housing rights.
  • As retaliation against those making fair housing complaints.

Refuse to make reasonable accommodations for a person with a disability.
Refuse to make a reasonable modification to a dwelling or common area if necessary for a person with disability to use the housing.
Fail to design and construct multi-family housing (post 1991) that is accessible for persons with disabilities.
Discriminate when providing financing.
Including:

  • Home mortgages, as well as any loan that is secured by residential real estate, such as home equity lines of credit.
  • Charging more points, higher interest rates, or different terms based on a person’s protected class membership.
  • Predatory lending or the practice of providing loans at highly inflated interest rates and disadvantageous terms, when the loans are targeted to protected class members or neighborhoods.

Deny access to brokerage services.
Discriminate in the provision of homeowner’s insurance.
Including:

  • Refusing to provide homeowner’s insurance on the basis of the applicant’s membership in a protected class, or because the home for which the insurance is sought is in a racially or ethnically diverse neighborhood (redlining).
  • Providing different types of policies, or applying different terms and conditions.

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WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I BELIEVE I HAVE BEEN TREATED UNLAWFULLY?

A:  You can file a discrimination complaint with many different government agencies, private fair housing organizations and non-profit fair housing enforcement organizations seeking damages, the housing in question, and other appropriate relief such as a promise from the housing provider not to discriminate. You can also file a complaint on your own.

New York State Division of Human Rights
One Fordham Plaza, 4th Floor
Bronx, New York 10458
718-741-8300 (voice)
718-741-8300 (TDD)

Office of the Attorney General
Civil Rights Bureau
120 Broadway
New York, New York 10271
212-416-8250 (voice)
800-788-9898 (TDD)
civil.rights@ag.ny.gov

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
New York Regional Office of FHEO
26 Federal Plaza, Room 3532
New York, NY 10278-0068
212-542-7519
800-496-4294
212-264-0927 (TTY)

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