AG Schneiderman Announces Settlement with Real Estate Brokerages for Alleged Housing Discrimination Based on Income Source
On May 23, New York AG Eric Schneiderman announced that his office reached settlements with three real estate brokerages operating in New York City, Nassau County, and Westchester County. According to the AG’s press release, the three firms unlawfully discriminated against potential housing applicants with Section 8 vouchers, which provide rental assistance and a home ownership option to low income households in New York State. During the AG’s investigation, undercover phone testers posing as prospective tenants with Section 8 vouchers were allegedly told by one firm that they would be placed on a months-long waitlist for the apartment in question; in contrast, testers who did not mention the vouchers were told that the units were immediately available. That firm’s manager allegedly testified, in substance, that “a waitlist was essentially used to reject unwanted prospective tenants.” Similarly, the other two firms allegedly “told undercover testers that Section 8 and other government assistance programs would not be accepted at certain properties.” The press release also emphasized that one firm failed to follow its written policy prohibiting income-source discrimination, and another firm did not have a written fair-housing compliance policy at all. Under the settlement agreements, the brokerages must: (i) forward any complaints and documentation regarding housing discrimination to the AG; (ii) develop new non-discriminatory policies; (iii) maintain rental information about certain properties and provide such information to the AG for compliance review; and (iv) pay fines ranging from $13,000 to $40,000. Two of the firms must also have their employees attend training on fair housing.