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Know Your Rights: Fair Housing Zoom Event

Fair Housing Month 2020

Thank you for your interest in our Know Your Rights: Fair Housing Zoom event. The State of New York and the Division of Human Rights (DHR) places high importance in addressing discrimination issues in housing. We hope to connect with you on future events and initiatives. Opens in a new windowSign up for our newsletter to receive updates from DHR on the latest changes to the State’s anti-discrimination law, upcoming events, and opportunities to partner with us.

We and our partners, New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) and the New York State Department of State (DOS), have made several resources available below on the issue of housing discrimination.


Questions and Answers

We appreciate our audience’s questions and contributions during the Zoom session. The following responds to the questions that we did not have a chance to address live:

What is the Law?

The most common questions we received were: What is against the law? What type of evidence is needed for a finding of discrimination? Unlawful discrimination can be obvious, but often it’s subtle. We encourage anyone who feels that they may have experienced discrimination to reach out to DHR to discuss it or file a complaint. When you file a complaint, our investigators look into each case individually. Even if no overt discriminatory comments or statements were made, it is possible that unlawful discrimination may have taken place. Opens in a new windowMore information on the complaint investigation process is available here.

The Human Rights Law applies to nearly all private and public housing accommodations, including subsidized housing and those with less than six units. Exceptions can include the rental of units in two-family owner-occupied homes, the rental of housing by religious institutions to members of their own faith, and certain types of senior housing. Please note, that under the Human Rights Law, individuals have the option to proceed directly in court. However, filing a complaint with DHR is often far quicker than the court process.Download PdfFurther information is available in our fair housing guide.

Housing Discrimination Based on Arrest Record

There were several questions about new protections against housing discrimination based on arrest record. As of July 11, 2019, the Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination in public and private housing based on a favorably resolved arrest record, an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, a sealed conviction record, or a youthful offender adjudication. A housing provider cannot inquire about these types of records and if they obtain such records from a background check, they cannot discriminate based on this information. You can read more about this topic in our Download Pdfbrochure and learn more in our upcoming Opens in a new windowYouTube video series on fair housing this summer.

Disability and Reasonable Accommodation in Housing

Many attendees had questions on the issue of disability and reasonable accommodation. Download PdfAs our guide on this subject indicates, the law requires that buildings constructed after March 13, 1991 have certain accessibility features. For example, doors must be wide enough to allow passage by people using wheelchairs, and unit should have accessible fixtures and outlets. Additionally, the law requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations as well. Housing providers are financially responsible for modifications to common or public areas; modifications to the interior of a unit may be the financial responsibility of the occupant. An individual has the right to request an accommodation whenever needed, even if it is many years after they began occupying the unit.

It’s important to note that there are broader protections for accommodation in housing than at public places such as restaurants or retail stores. For example, in housing, an accommodation of an emotional support animal is often reasonable. While only service dogs or miniature horses are explicitly covered at public places, other types of animals may be permissible as an emotional support animal for an individual at home. A housing provider may request documentation to support that the individual has a disability and the need for the animal is disability related. This documentation could come from a mental health care provider, physician, or other health care provider who is qualified to provide their recommendation. You can learn more about the housing rights of people with disabilities in our upcoming Opens in a new windowYouTube video series this summer.

Source of Income Discrimination

Additionally, many of the questions were on another new legal protection: Download Pdfthe prohibition of housing discrimination based on source income. This basis was added to the Human Rights Law to address systemic discrimination as housing vouchers often help families with children, seniors, and people with disabilities to obtain housing. For too long, a landlord had been able to say “No Section 8” and effectively discriminate against these groups of people. Lawful sources of income include, but are not limited to: child support, alimony or spousal maintenance, foster care subsidies, social security benefits, public assistance or local housing assistance, or any other form of lawful income. This protection not only applies to obtaining housing, but also equal terms, conditions or privileges cannot be denied to a tenant on the basis of the source of the tenant’s income. A housing provider also may not turn down an applicant because of the administrative requirements of participating in a housing assistance program.

The Tenant Protection Unit

The New York State Homes and Community Renewal Tenant Protection Unit (TPU) deals with all rent regulated apartments in NYC, Nassau, Rockland and Westchester Counties. You can contact the Tenant Protection Unit at Opens in a new window[email protected] or visit Opens in a new to learn more.

Leases and Renewals of Leases for Rent-Regulated Units

Several questions were about leases and the renewal of leases. Whether or not you are entitled to a renewal lease primarily comes down to whether your unit is rent stabilized. You may request a copy of your unit’s rental history by visiting Opens in a new window or by submitting Opens in a new windowa request for records access form to HCR.

Tenants in rent stabilized apartments are generally entitled to a renewal lease for either a one-year or two-year lease term under the same exact terms as the tenant’s expiring lease. In most cases, upon the renewal of a lease, a landlord would be entitled to increase the legal regulated rent by the applicable Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) increase for that year. Further information is available in Opens in a new windowHCR’s guide to rent increases for rent stabilized apartments and Opens in a new windowfact sheet on lease renewal.

The Rent Stabilization Code permits “immediate family members” to keep an apartment even when they are not on the current lease agreement. Generally, an immediate family member of a tenant who resided with the tenant in a rent-regulated apartment as a primary residence for at least two years immediately prior to the tenant’s vacatur (one year if the succeeding tenant is a senior citizen or disabled) is entitled to take over the tenancy of the vacating tenant. Tenants and owners that have questions concerning succession rights can visit Opens in a new window or contact the TPU at Opens in a new window[email protected].

A landlord may refuse to renew a tenant’s lease under certain circumstances. Some examples are if an owner or member of his immediate family needs the apartment for their personal use and primary residence; the apartment is proven not to be the tenant’s primary residence; or the owner wants to demolish the building and appropriate notifications and approvals have been completed with HCR and other city and state agencies. Further information is available in this Opens in a new windowHCR fact sheet on lease renewal in rent stabilized apartments.

Governor Cuomo’s Executive Orders suspend evictions during a 90 day period ending June 20, 2020 or if you are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19, or are eligible for unemployment benefits, until August 20, 2020. Should you receive a notice terminating your tenancy and/or a petition for housing court, contact your local legal services provider immediately. If your landlord is not making repairs or providing services, you may Opens in a new windowfile an HP action in court.

Finally, if your unit is rent-stabilized, and you are harassed by a landlord, denied a lease renewal, or overcharged rent you can always contact Opens in a new windowHCR’s Office of Rent Administration or the Opens in a new windowTenant Protection Unit for assistance.


Presentation Slides

Video from Presentation - 4/30/20