New York real estate is the mecca for eager buyers, determined sellers, and more recently, unlawful discrimination. On May 23, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman established a settlement with real estate firms that have deliberately disregarded housing laws. Potential tenants who hold Section 8 housing vouchers or are affiliated with government assistance programs had been illegally denied the opportunity to live in certain residences that might otherwise be considered affordable housing.
Three real estate firms, Crifasi Real Estate, Douglas Elliman, and Empire State Equities, are the offenders of imposing income-based “barriers.” As a result of undercover phone tests conducted by the Office of the Attorney General, it has been determined that these firms either refused to accept applications from those who are granted government housing assistance, or placed the applicants on a wait list. The wait lists, as derived by the Office of Attorney General, were “essentially used to reject unwanted prospective tenants.” If the potential tenants do not meet a certain standard, such as active and consistent employment or a minimum monthly income, they are denied. Schneiderman has concluded that these unfair housing practices impede on the rights of New Yorkers who rely on government assistance.
In an effort to push the importance of equal rights, as of May 23, the real estate firms must abide by certain implications, including paying fines in the amounts of $40,000, $35,000, and $13,000. The firms are also required to notify the Office of Attorney General of any discrimination complaints they may receive from applicants. They must also disclose to the Office of Attorney General up to date rental property information, and maintain policies that coincide with lawful housing practices. Schneiderman has secured these new policies and restructurings with the hopes of ensuring ‘“that everyone is treated equally under the law, regardless of race, ethnicity, or income.’”