The State of Fair Housing in These Times of Change.

Before the recent protests and resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, I was asked by a group of Realtors to present a continuing education program on Fair Housing. I poured over the various laws in New York, particularly in Rockland and Westchester County to find the status of the law. With help from the Rockland County Division of Human Rights, I presented a fairly bland state of affairs to a mostly attentive group using hypothetical scenarios. Though I have dealt with some complaints over the years, as an attorney, I never really saw the how discrimination worked or operated in my communities. Until today. Today, I stumbled upon this fine piece of investigative journalism, and I commend all to read and watch the documentary.
To summarize, Newsday engaged the Fair Housing Justice Center in Long Island City, to help structure and implement testing and train testers, and then sent the results to two nationally recognized experts in fair housing standards to analyze the findings.  The results are astounding.

By way of refresher, the federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing related transactions because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability or familial status. Many state and local laws also prohibit housing discrimination based on several additional protected classes.  The Fair Housing Act applies to a wide variety of housing transactions, including rentals, sales, home mortgages, appraisals and homeowners insurance. Landlords, real estate agents, lenders, insurance companies and condominium, cooperative and homeowner associations must not discriminate because of one’s membership in a protected class.

Landlords and other housing providers may not discriminate against persons with disabilities. Pet restrictions cannot be used to deny or limit housing to persons with disabilities who require the use of an assistance animal. This brochure discusses how reasonable accommodations may be required to enable persons with disabilities that require the use of an assistance animal to use and enjoy a dwelling.


■     Families with children are limited to certain buildings or to the first floor.

■     Occupancy is limited to one person per bedroom.

■     The housing provider refuses to sell, rent or show available housing after learning that you have children.

■     The terms and conditions of a lease or agreement are different for families, such as lease terms that strictly limit children’s activities on the property or charge a higher security deposit.

■     Statements are made that the dwelling would not be suitable for your family, that your children won’tbe safe, or that the neighbors do not want you there.

■     The availability changes between a phone contact and an in-person visit.

■     Advertisements express a preference for singles or couples.

■     Advertisements expressed a preference for singles or couples but the community does not qualify as housing for older persons.

■     Families with children or persons with disabilities were limited or steered to certain buildings or to the first floor.

■     The housing provider:     Failed or delayed to make repairs or maintain the property.     Limited the use of services or facilities or privileges. Refused to make a reasonable accommodation or allow a reason modification for a person with a disability

The article in Newsday had quite an impact on Nassau County lawmakers  who have now introduced legislation that they hope will create a database of racially restrictive covenants within property deeds on Nassau County.  Nassau County Legislators Carrié Solages of Valley Stream and Arnie Drucker of Plainview introduced legislation that aims to uncover legal property documents within racially discriminatory covenants that were historically intended to prevent Black Americans, Jews and Asian Americans from buying and renting property in certain neighborhoods. The database would help educate the public and government on how structural racism shaped law, public policy, socioeconomic opportunities and education.

The Bottom Line- As we move through these times of change, home buyers, realtors, banks, attorneys and sellers should be aware of the internal barriers housing, and move the needle toward inclusion, equality, and fairness.



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