New York State Division of Human Rights Announces Resolution of Source of Income Complaint Against Real Estate Websites on Long Island
May 20, 2021
The New York State Division of Human Rights today announced that it had resolved a Division-initiated source of income discrimination complaint filed against Zumper, Inc. and its subsidiary Padmapper, Inc. The companies, which own and operate national real estate rental websites, were alleged by the Division to have unlawfully discriminated against potential tenants receiving Section 8 vouchers, who are often low-income families, seniors, or people living with disabilities. As part of the resolution, and without any admission of violation of law or liability, the companies have reaffirmed their commitment to the principles of fair housing, agreed to change their practices, and pay civil fines totaling $40,000.
“In New York, it is unlawful to deny someone housing just because they have a Section 8 voucher or some other form of governmental assistance,” said Interim Commissioner Johnathan J. Smith. “Today’s announcement reaffirms the Division’s commitment to vigorously enforcing the source of income protections in the Human Rights Law.”
The New York State Division of Human Rights is empowered by law to investigate and prosecute systematic patterns of discrimination. In April 2019, the agency’s Division-Initiated Action Unit discovered that the use of a filter on the companies’ respective websites appeared to deny prospective tenants access to available rental listings based upon their status as holders of Section 8 vouchers, which is a lawful source of income, and opened an investigation. The investigation showed that the number of available rental listings in Nassau and Suffolk Counties for prospective tenants using Section 8 dropped from hundreds of listings, without the filter, to zero listings when the filter was selected.
The Division-Initiated Action Unit’s filing of a formal complaint based on the evidence gathered in the investigation prompted Zumper and Padmapper to remove the filter from all their Internet platforms. As part of the resolution, the companies agreed to show their continued commitment to preventing and eliminating discrimination on the basis of lawful source of income, and any other protected class, by conducting fair housing training, engaging in outreach and education on fair housing, and paying a fine to the State of New York. This is the first Division-Initiated Action Unit source of income complaint to be resolved since the addition of those protections to the New York State Human Rights Law.
The New York State Division of Human Rights is the agency in charge of enforcing the state Human Rights law, which prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit, and educational institutions. In September 2020, the Division launched a public awareness campaign to promote the state’s fair housing laws. As part of the campaign, the Division launched an updated fair housing landing page at https://dhr.ny.gov/fairhousingwhich includes a link to an animated YouTube video series which educates people on source of income discrimination, and other fair housing topics. This webpage also provides links to updated educational materials on fair housing and recordings of various fair housing presentations. The Division’s fair housing campaign has been seen nearly 3 million times across the state by New Yorkers.