The Fair Housing Laws and Fair Lending Laws make it illegal for persons involved in a housing search to be discriminated against. All persons have the legal right to live in the home of his or her choice. Landlords, advertisers, appraisers, bankers and home inspectors cannot act in a discriminatory way; they are required to give equal treatment to all home seekers.
The law prohibits brokers and agents of real estate offices from discriminating, they must treat all customers equally. Also, co-ops and condominiums boards cannot discriminate against buyers or sellers.
A person has the legal right to live in a home that he or she can afford. The law states that individuals cannot be denied the sale, lease or rental of housing, or of services and privileges associated with housing on the basis of:
- Race or skin color, religion or creed, or ethnic or national origin
- Sexual orientation or gender status (including sexual harassment)
- A disability
- Marriage or pregnancy status, or being a family with children under 18 years of age
- Citizenship or alien status
- Being a victim of domestic violence, sexual abuse, or stalking
- Military status
- A predisposing genetic characteristic
Learn more about housing discrimination
A good resource on housing discrimination is the Web pages of the Westchester County Human Rights Commission, or the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Web site where a fair housing discrimination complaint can be filed and where the federal Fair Housing Act can be read in its entirety.
Another resource is the Web site of the Westchester Residential Opportunities,Inc., a HUD-certified housing counselling agency that provides access to realtors and housing counsellors who can answer questions about discrimination and other housing issues.
“Source of Income” Legislation.
In June 2013 the Westchester County Board of Legislators approved “source of income” legislation that bars landlords from discriminating against tenants based on their income, including Section 8 vouchers and other housing subsidies. The law exempts cooperatives, condos and buildings with six units or fewer.
Filing a complaint with the County’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) is a good action to take. Prior to formally filing, concerns and experiences around discriminatory actions can be discussed with a staff member of the County’s HRC or staff from one of the local housing advocacy organizations listed on this page. The experienced staff from these organizations may know the landlords or rental agents involved and sometimes can intercede and mediate to avoid a potential dispute. They can also provide guidance through the complaint filing process.
The complaint process
A number of steps take place once a formal complaint is filed. The complaint is reviewed and investigated. In order to address the concerns and to ensure a fair and equitable process, the source of the complaint will be informed and have an opportunity to respond. To avoid formal legal proceedings, a mediation conference may be held. If the mediation is unsuccessful, the matter can be forwarded to an Administrative Law Judge for a hearing.
Westchester Mediation Center of CLUSTER
20 South Broadway – Suite 307
Yonkers, New York 10701
Tel: (914) 963-6500
New York State Dispute Resolution Association, Inc.
255 River Street
Troy, NY 12180.
Tel: (518) 687-2240
Fax: (518) 687-2245
Hudson Valley Legal Services (HVLS)
4 Cromwell Place
White Plains, New York 10601
Tel: (914) 949-1305 or (877) 574-8529
(HVLS provides free, high quality civil legal services to low-income people with the goal of resolving non-criminal legal problems that can lead to larger social problems such as homelessness.)