New York Governor Cuomo is sending out the troops — an army of “testers” posing as rental applicants. Their mission: to root out discrimination.
According to a statement issued by the Governor’s Office, the new Fair Housing Enforcement Program will build on the expertise of three major fair housing advocates by using testers with diverse racial, gender, and economic profiles including families and persons with disabilities. They will pose as rental applicants and seek out bias.
Testers will work in tandem in order to demonstrate a landlord’s reactions to a variety of renter profiles. The treatment the testers receive will be documented, and when possible discrimination is uncovered, landlords will be investigated — and prosecuted.
The program applies to landlords and property managers, as well as real estate agents and brokers.
In addition, the Governor has directed the Division of Human Rights and the Department of State to propose new regulations to strengthen the state’s housing enforcement efforts. Proposed regulations will clarify that it is illegal to discriminate against individuals because of their relationship or association with members of a protected class. For example a renter may not be evicted or denied equal terms because of the race, creed, national origin or sexual orientation of the renter’s friends who visit the apartment.
These regulations will apply beyond housing and commercial properties, to all protected areas under the Human Rights law, including public accommodations, employment, and credit. New York is the first state in the nation to enact a Human Rights Law to prosecute discrimination.
Along with adopting fair tenant screening policies, landlords need to make reasonable modifications and accommodations to allow people with disabilities the full use and enjoyment of their homes and maintain leasing policies that do not discriminate.
The New York State Division of Human Rights has announced that it has recently reached settlements on 123 cases filed with the state alleging housing discrimination in 2015, resulting in monetary awards for victims, as well as other benefits including rent abatement, rent payment reduction, improved housing conditions and reasonable modifications like ramps and accessible entrances for individuals with disabilities. On average more than 500 housing discrimination cases are pending with federal, state and local authorities.
These settlements include:
A tenant in Saratoga Springs who alleged that her landlord refused to renew her lease because she uses a cane and has multiple physical disabilities. She also alleged that the landlord refused to provide her with a handicap-accessible parking space. The landlord was required to pay money damages and excused a prior judgment it had taken against the tenant.
A couple who allegedly were denied the opportunity to purchase an apartment in Rye because they had three minor children. During the course of the investigation evidence was found indicating that no children lived in the co-op. The couple received a monetary settlement to resolve the matter.
A woman alleged that she was denied the opportunity to rent an apartment in Suffolk County because the landlord and realtor thought her infant child’s crying would disturb the upstairs neighbors. The landlord paid monetary damages to resolve the case.
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.