Sunday, July 03, 2016

Stung By Undercover Phone Calls From State AG's Office, Two NYC Real Estate Brokerages Agree To Cough Up $1,500 Each In Fines, Promise To Never Again Discriminate Against Prospective Tenants Who Use Gov't Subsidies To Pay Rent

In New York City, The Real Deal (New York) reports:
  • Two residential brokerages accused of discriminating against low-income tenants agreed to change their practices amid an investigation by New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

    The AG’s office claims that the firms, Rapid Realty Bedford Stuyvesant and Lori & Associates LI Realty Inc., refused to help New Yorkers on housing vouchers find apartments, Politico reports.

    The two firms also agreed to pay $1,500 each in fines, Politico reported.

    Undercover AG Staffers in several instances called the brokerages. After the callers disclosed they were on the voucher program Living in Communities, which helps homeless victims of domestic violence secure apartments, they were turned away.

    According to documents provided to Politico, the AG’s office concluded that Long Island-based Lori & Associates “caused multiple instances of unlawful discrimination in housing rentals on the basis of lawful source of income in violation of (state law).”(1)

    Lori & Associates also agreed to oversight from Schneiderman’s office.

    According to Politico, a caller asked a Rapid Realty agent about using the LINC III voucher for an apartment in Brooklyn. The agent, Schneiderman said, referred her to another Rapid Realty agent, telling the caller “I do not know if the landlord is accepting LINC for that one. The listings that I have don’t have anything to do with programs.”

    In 2014, brokerages Absolute Properties, Brownstone Real Estate and Destination Real Estate paid penalties following similar allegations.

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in February that the new Fair Housing Program would identify landlords, brokers and sellers who discriminate against potential tenants based on race, disability, economic background and sexual orientation.(2) He said brokers believed to be engaging in discrimination could have their license revoked.
Source: AG fines two brokerages for discriminatory practices (The firms had turned away applicants on housing vouchers).
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(1) While New York City is among a number of cities/municipalities in the state that have passed local laws/ordinances prohibiting discrimination in housing on the basis of lawful source of income (which includes government vouchers as well as any legitimate occupation), I know of no statewide law in New York that prohibits this type of discrimination.

(2) See Cuomo will use undercover agents to tackle landlords, sellers involved in housing discrimination (And he's coming after brokers too). Section 8.

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