NYC Fair Housing It's The Law

By
Real Estate Agent with Compass

Starting July 1, 2008, at least 3 hours of fair housing and anti-discrimination content must be part of the 22.5 hours of continuing education criteria for renewal of a New York State real estate license.

In NYC the brokerage community has been following strict guidlines regarding Fair Housing Laws this past year. Questions that were routinely asked by brokers and coop boards are no longer acceptable.

Fair Housing means that you have the right to live wherever you choose and be treated according to the same rules as everyone else. Fair Housing laws promote equal opportunity and prohibit discriminatory practices that can unfairly limit the housing choices of numerous groups.

Fair Housing

 The NYC Human Rights Law prohibits housing discrimination in New York City based on a person's real or perceived race, color, national origin, gender (including gender identity and sexual harassment), creed, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, partnership status, alienage or citizenship status, age, lawful occupation or because children may be or will be residing with you.

New York City Fair Housing Non-Discrimination policy:

It is the policy of the New York City Housing Authority to provide equal housing opportunities for all qualified applicants and residents. In the selection of families and in the provision of services, there shall be no discrimination against any person on the grounds of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, familial status, marital status, partnership status, military status, disability, lawful occupation, alienage or citizenship status, or on the grounds that a person is a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking. This policy also prohibits retaliation.

This policy is in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendment Act of 1988, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

Any resident or applicant who wishes to report housing discrimination or retaliation MAY FILE A DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINT (NYCHA 036.024) by contacting the Department of Equal Opportunity from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday or their development management office between 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM:

New York City Housing Authority
Department of Equal Opportunity
250 Broadway, 27th floor
New York, NY 10007
Telephone (212) 306-4468
Fax: (212) 306-4439
TTY: (212) 306-4845

Or by contacting any of the following federal, state or city human rights agencies listed below:
New York City Commission on Human Rights
40 Rector Street, 9th floor
New York, NY 10006
(212) 306-7500

New York State Division of Human Rights
20 Exchange Place, 2nd floor
New York, New York 10005
(212) 480-2522

United States Department of Housing and Urban Development
Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
26 Federal Plaza, Room 3532
New York, New York 10278
(212) 264-1290 Extension 7534
250 Broadway, 27th floor
(212) 480-2522

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Rainmaker
341,471
Eric Reid
Renaissance Realty Group of Keller Williams Atlanta Partners - Lawrenceville, GA

Fair is Fair its odd that a city like HYC needs to make such a strong statement abut being FAIR... hmmm

Jun 10, 2008 01:37 PM #1
Rainmaker
597,761
Mitchell J Hall
Compass - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

Hi Eric,

It is a strong statement and makes our jobs much harder not be able to ask any questions.  A major firm was accused of blatant steering in Brooklyn not too long ago. Also 70% of our housing is coops and coops can reject buyers without giving a reason. It is still difficult for a buyer to prove discrimination.

Jun 10, 2008 02:16 PM #2
Rainer
178,588
Anthony Clark
Clark Partners - Fayetteville, AR
Real Estate. It's About Lifestyle!

Mitchell  Just today I received a call about a listing and the individual asked if the house is in a "black neighborhood." When I explained to her that I could not answer that question, and that she should not be asking that question, she hung up on me.  It has been a long time since I received one of those calls, but unfortunately it goes to show you that Fair Housing regs are still needed.

Jun 10, 2008 02:56 PM #3
Rainmaker
597,761
Mitchell J Hall
Compass - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

Anthony, I'm amazed at some of the questions I get from buyers and some of the comments that some agents make. Because NYC has a history of ethnicity's and neighborhoods people ask and say things they think are innocent but are violations of the law.

Jun 10, 2008 03:14 PM #4
Ambassador
2,737,312
Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

The public has no conception of the Fair Housing laws.  Agents and brokers simply have to focus on the property and not on the people and they'll be fine. 

The public do not get 3 hours of Fair Housing CE. 

Jun 11, 2008 12:15 AM #5
Anonymous
andrea
Mitchell, As long as coops are allowed to operate outside the law there will be no such thing as fair housing in NY. What happened to intro 119 which would have required Coops to disclose their reasons for rejecting prospective purchasers? The difference between traditional "renters" and Coop renter is that many coop shareholders spend decades paying assessments, unfair maintenance increases, and have tax rebates garnished by the "coop"! Not to mention basic maintenance of there units, RE taxes and their own "mortgage" only to have their apartments stolen from them by unscrupulous criminal landlords who sponsored coops never intending to relinquish control of the building. Many elderly residents loose their apartments each year to land-grab tactics by these criminals. It's a known revenue source for them. Another group affected is the shareholder who challenges the Coop board or sponsor. Retaliation by the coop/sponsor takes on many forms for these people. usually ending in financial ruin. Why don't coop shareholders have protection from unfair housing practices?
Jun 11, 2008 01:17 AM #6
Rainmaker
597,761
Mitchell J Hall
Compass - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

Lenn, Excellent point. The public has no conception of Fair Housing laws.

Andrea, You bring up several important issues. Regarding Fair Housing I don't disagree with you. However, it is illegal for a coop to discriminate. I supported the bill intro 119 that was defeated in the city council to make coops accountable. Most brokers supported it. 63% of coop owners supported the bill along with the Mayor and every civil rights organization. I've written several blogs about it.

Opponents of the bill REBNY (Real Estate Board of New York) and the NY council of cooperatives and condominiums (both organizations represent coops and coop managing agents) lobbied against it. They persuaded Christine Quinn who ran for city council in Chelsea supporting the bill but changed her mind when she became speaker. Quinn does not think "this bill is the right answer to the problem and we're to keep looking at other solutions."

Council member Gale Brewer, who represents Manhattan's West Side, has always been against the disclosure bill. She said that "progressive" friends on co-op boards told her such a disclosure law "would make it harder to recruit people" to volunteers for the co-op board. Brewer said that her office gets lots of complaints about the way co-op boards are run but not about discrimination by the boards. 

 REBNY and the council for coops and condos that lobbied against the bill supposedly have developed a two-page sheet on anti-discrimination requirements that they recommend be included in every application that goes before a co-op board. They also have put together a sheet on "buyer's rights" that they recommend be given to every co-op applicant. I have yet to see such a sheet in any coop application. 

The other issue that you bring up regarding assessments, unfair maintenance increases, and have tax rebates garnished by the "coop"! Not to mention basic maintenance of there units, RE taxes and their own "mortgage" only to have their apartments stolen from them by unscrupulous criminal landlords who sponsored coops never intending to relinquish control of the building.

Shareholders in a coop have voting rights. Coop board members have a fiduciary duty to the shareholders. Most proprietery leases from a conversion stipulate that when 50% of the building is sold or a specified amount of time passes the shareholders control the board.

Renters who remain in coops particularly elder renters are protected by rent control laws. In fact renters in coops under rent control and rent stabilization laws often have more rights than owner/shareholders. Coops have been known to offer rent controlled tenants $50,000 to $100,000 to give up their apartments so the board or sponsor can sell them.

I think it's time NYC coops become accountable and stop operating in secrecy. We're in the 21st century.

Jun 11, 2008 02:33 AM #7
Rainmaker
130,480
Kevin O'Shea
Coldwell Banker - White Plains, NY
White Plains, NY Real Estate

Hi Mitchell,

There is a co-op condo working group at the NYS Assn of Realtors. They are trying to legislate co=op board denials.

All the besq

Jun 11, 2008 01:18 PM #8
Ambassador
1,651,372
Jennifer Fivelsdal
JFIVE Home Realty LLC | 845-758-6842|162 Deer Run Rd Red Hook NY 12571 - Rhinebeck, NY
Mid Hudson Valley real estate connection

Mitchell, You have a unique marketplace.  The way the coop operates provides a challenge for anyone to prove they suffered discrimination.

I also think the 3 hour class is a great idea; with such a diverse population it is possible to slip into bad habits and ask questions that could be considered troublesome.

Jun 11, 2008 02:36 PM #9
Rainmaker
597,761
Mitchell J Hall
Compass - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

Hi Kevin, That would be great if NYSAR can get a state law passed. Thanks

Jennifer, Most coop boards are made up of 7 building residents with no special training about Fair Housing. While most coops boards do a good job, there is always the possibility of discrimination because they're allowed to operate in secrecy without accountability.

I agree the 3 hour manadatory training is a great idea.  

Jun 11, 2008 05:37 PM #10
Rainmaker
179,901
Jason Rose
123 ConEd LLC -- Michigan real estate continuing education - Farmington Hills, MI
www.123ConEd.com

Good morning, Mitchell.  Great posting!  Real estate professionals everywhere seem to often forget some of the basic tenets of the various fair housing laws.  It's good to see a post like yours that reminds everyone of their obligations.

Feb 11, 2009 12:19 AM #11
Anonymous
Concerned Shareholder

Hello - you have a very informative website!

After much searching, we finally found a family that wants to purchase our two-bedroom, one-bathroom (over 1000 square feet) co-op.  The family fell in love with the place just as we did when we first saw it.  We're in the process of buying a house, so we're ready to move on and sell.  We are selling it for about 10% less than the appraised value, but in this economy, that's the best we could find.  The family is composed of a married couple and their three children.

Their lawyer contacted the building's management agent to obtain information about the building (e.g. amendments, board meeting minutes).  The board president was notified of the interested family.  The board president approached us and told us that we should look for someone else because the family is too large to fit in a two-bedroom apartment and would probably be rejected.  The next day, we called the management agent to get clarification on this and to request the document that contains this rule, as it is not in the proprietary lease or in the house rules.  To date, the management agent has not called us back.

Is rejection of this co-op application legal on the grounds mentioned by the board president?   The Multiple Dwelling Law requires 80 square feet of livable area per occupant, so that requirement is easily met.  In addition, according to NYC Human Rights Law (which extends to co-ops), the fact that a couple has children or not can't be used by a co-op board in making a decision regarding the purchase of a co-op unit. 

We're frustrated because we've been trying to find a buyer for some time and now that we finally found one, we're being blocked from completing our transaction.  We've always had pleasant dealings with the building management and the board president up until now.  We're trying to get a clear, documented answer and no one has been able to provide such documentation.  We don't want to fight with the management or the board president.  All we want to do is sell our co-op and move on with our lives.

Kindly advise.  Thank you!

Jul 07, 2009 08:55 PM #12
Rainmaker
597,761
Mitchell J Hall
Compass - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

Concerned Shareholder,

Thank you for visiting my blog. I understand your frustration. Unfortunately I am not an attorney and I can not give you legal advice. Your situation is somewhat complicated. NYC Fair Housing laws prevent a coop from rejecting a buyer because they have children.

You mentioned the multiple dwelling law requiring 80 square feet of space per occupant. I believe that is where it can get messy regarding the ages and genders of the children and size of the apartment. The board president saying the family is too big for a 2 bedroom apartment is different from saying no children allowed.

They probably will be rejected since the president of the board told you so. It's up to you and your attorney if you should go through with it. Has a contract been signed? Is the apartment currently listed with a broker? Is the apartment in Manhattan?

 

Jul 08, 2009 05:14 AM #13
Anonymous
Concerned Shareholder

Thank you for your reply, Mitchell.  I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts.

Has a contract been signed?  Yes - however their lawyer is holding it, awaiting some of the Co-op board meeting minutes and some recent amendments, as well as clarification on the current issue at-hand.

Is the apartment currently listed with a broker? No - we were advertising ourselves on Craigslist.

Is the apartment in Manhattan? No - Queens.  I know you deal primarily with Manhattan, however, for the interest of all readers, I wanted to share our situation on your website.  Once again, I value your insight on this matter, even know you can't offer legal advice.  I hope that others will see this and know that they are not alone in this debacle.

In addition, their eldest child is almost done with high school and has aspirations to attend college in Pennsylvania, so he will be moving out anyway in a year or so, bringing the number of occupants down to 4 people.  As for sleeping arrangements, they plan to put two children of the same sex in one room and the other of opposite sex on a pull-out living room couch.  Once again, with over 1000 square feet in the apartment, that is more than adequate to house 5 people.

Update: The Co-op's lawyer called my lawyer today and informed us to proceed with the application.  In other words, they're playing it as if there was a misunderstanding and that nothing was ever said (even though the board president said this to us and the management agent said this to the potential buyers separately, and we've signed affidavits to that effect).  Another lady in the management office said that this arrangement is "frowned upon," but no where does it say this is not a permissible arrangement.  I spoke to two of the other board members and they said this arrangement should not be a problem.  In addition, I reached out to someone from the FNYHC who also confirmed that this reason for rejection is not valid.

But you are right - despite all of this, they may end up rejecting the application.  But considering how I heard the board president say this and the interested buyers heard the same thing from the management agent, a rejected application will raise many eyebrows.  If they don't want a discrimination lawsuit on their hands, they should treat this application fairly and, if they reject it, provide a legally valid reason for rejection, being that there is already a cloud of suspicion surrounding this case.  Although not required, failure to provide a valid reason will look very suspicious, based upon the statements that were made by the board president and the management agent.  It's one thing if their financials are not in-line, which of course is the most common reason for rejection.  This interested family happens to own their own restaurant business, so they should be ok financially.  But if it's anything else, it won't go over easy and it will cause many legal headaches and bad publicity for the building, as our lawyers are not going to let this slide.

I hope all of that is averted and their application will be treated fairly and within the confines of all applicable NYC laws.  Once again, we just want to sell our co-op to a very interested buyer at a comparable market price - nothing more, nothing less.

Thanks again for listening and sharing your insights.

- Concerned Shareholder

Jul 08, 2009 07:46 PM #14
Rainmaker
597,761
Mitchell J Hall
Compass - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

Concerned Shareholder,

I'm glad you heard from the coops attorney and you are proceedeing. Since two children of the same sex can share 1 bedroom and the other older one will be in the LR and going to college that should be acceptable living arrangements. 

 An experienced coop broker makes sure the financials are in order and puts together the board package. Make sure the board package is impeccable before submitting to the board. Since you don't have a broker and I don't know if the buyer has a broker the board package should be reviewed to make sure the financials are in order and all documents support the financial stratement. Make sure the buyer has excellent reference letters. Perhaps even a cover letter letter from the buyer why they fell in love with the apartment and the building and how they will be great neighbors and shareholders.

I spoke to a staff attorney at Human Rights Commission yesterday before I answered your question. If the coop does reject the buyer and you and or the buyer believe it was discrimination the Human Rights Commission will take the case for free. However they can't say if you will win. You can contact them at 212 306-7450. I hope it won't be neccessary.

Situations like yours is why I have supported the bill that was defeated in the city council to make coops accountable by requiring them to put in writing the reason for a rejection.

Good luck, I hope it works out for all parties.

Jul 09, 2009 02:11 AM #15
Anonymous
Concerned Shareholder

Thank you for the information, Mitchell!  I will keep you posted as the process evolves.

Jul 09, 2009 03:41 PM #16
Anonymous
Happy Shareholder

Hi Mitchell,

Hope you enjoyed the holidays!  Can't believe it's been over 6 months since I've posted!  It took our buyers time to obtain a mortgage approval.   Even the application process was dragged out with the management company.  The board finally met them in November and approved them.  Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts, we're still waiting to close.  We're looking at early/mid January.  We've been out of the apartment since the summer when we closed on our new home!  It's been tough balancing 2 mortgages, but at least things are finally coming together.  Just wanted to let you know and say THANK YOU for sharing your feedback on our situation.  Have a great, prosperous 2010!

- Happy Shareholder =)

Dec 27, 2009 07:38 AM #17
Rainmaker
597,761
Mitchell J Hall
Compass - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

Hi Happy Shareholder,

Thank you. I'm glad it all worked out for you. Applications and bank underwriters are taking longer than ever because of so many new regulations and guidelines. Selling a coop is usually a long process. Scheduling a closing for a NYC coop is always difficult because so many parties have to be at the closing. It is tough having two mortgages but home owners often have an overlap selling and buying a new home because it is almost impossible to time and coordinate the move particularly when one of the properties is a coop.

I wish you and your family have many years of happiness in your new home and a prosperous 2010!

Mitchell

Dec 28, 2009 04:27 AM #18
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