On June 30, 2021, Newman Ferrara LLP filed a complaint on behalf of Housing Rights Initiative (HRI), a nonprofit housing-watchdog group, in New York County State Supreme Court, alleging that some 36 brokers, realtors, and landlords violated New York State’s Executive Law – which prohibits housing discrimination based on source of income.
The complaint alleges that the defendants engaged in source-of-income discrimination by explicitly and systematically refusing to rent to tenants who intended to pay with government-provided assistance in the form of housing vouchers. HRI uncovered the illegality by hiring and training testers to call and text the defendants over an eight-month period to inquire about available units. These tests revealed “blatant forms of discrimination” in violation of New York State law.
Many fair-housing experts believe the denial those who receive government-provided rental assistance is a proxy for other forms of illegal discrimination. Research shows that a disproportionate amount of Black, Hispanic, and disabled Americans receive housing vouchers. Therefore, systematically refusing to accept housing vouchers allows realtors and landlords to effectively discriminate against those communities.
Randolph McLaughlin, co-chair of the Civil Rights Practice Group at Newman Ferrara LLP, noted that, “What we’re trying to do is make these brokers,realtors and landlords an example to the nation.” He further shared that, “if it works in New York, there are other states that have this same source-of-income discrimination laws. And guess what? We’ll be testing in those states, and filing lawsuits when we’re ready.”
To view a publicly filed copy of the complaint, click this link:
For additional information about this case, please feel free to contact Prof. McLaughlin at 212-619-5400.