The November 17, 2019 Newsday Report regarding violations of federal Fair Housing Laws by Long Island real estate agents gave rise to several pieces of legislation intended to address these violations.
One that became effective on June 20, 2020 requires agents to provide a prospective purchaser, tenant, seller, or landlord upon first substantive contact a disclosure notice furnished by the Department of State (DOS) containing substantive provisions of the New York State Human Rights Law and how complaints may be filed with the DOS. The notice may be provided by email, text, electronically, facsimile, or hardcopy. Oral disclosure does not satisfy the requirement. The notice applies to all real property occupied or unoccupied, including condominiums, cooperatives, improved and unimproved properties or commercial properties. The law requires that the agent shall obtain a signed acknowledgment retained for at least three years. If the consumer declines to sign the disclosure notice, the agent shall set forth under oath or affirmation a written declaration of the facts regarding when such notice was provided and maintain a copy for not less than three years.
The law further requires a real estate broker to display at every office and branch office a notice, furnished by the DOS indicating the provisions of New York State Human Rights Law relative to housing accommodations. The notice must also appear on all websites of the broker and the broker’s agents as well as all open houses.
This notice does not render the Equal Housing Opportunity Poster regarding the Federal Fair Housing Act available from HUD unnecessary.
With respect to DOS approved real estate schools and instructors offering required fair housing courses, such courses shall be video and audio recorded and maintained for at least one year.
On August 3, 2020 the governor signed legislation supported by the New York State Association of Realtors explicitly granting the DOS the authority to revoke or suspend the real estate licenses of those found to be in violation of Human Rights Law.
According to the DOS, “If a broker knew of an agent’s unlawful conduct and took no steps to correct the agent, and then retained a commission as a result, the Department may take appropriate disciplinary action which could include requiring that the commission be returned, and suspension and/or revocation of the broker’s license. Additionally, if a brokerage has one sponsoring broker, and that broker’s license is suspended, each license under that brokerage would be inactive until either they were associated with another company or a broker with an active license took over the brokerage.” The DOS further states: “A broker could always attempt to plead ignorance, but such claim may then result in finding that the broker failed to adequately supervise staff, which in and of itself is a separate violation of law and could result in discipline. Additionally, there are numerous decisions from the Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) that have found. “Ignorance is ineffective in avoiding liability for most violations of the New York Real Property Law (RPL).”
I asked Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. for his comments regarding the new law. His response: “New York Law already prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, creed, national origin, sex, age, disability, marital status, family status, sexual orientation or gender identity. The DOS has the authority to fine, suspend or revoke the license of a broker or real estate person for violations of law, but the statute does not specify that this includes for discriminating in their capacity as an agent or broker. This important legislation changes this, expressly confirming the Department’s authority to punish such conduct in order to deter future behavior and to better secure homebuyers the right to fair and equal treatment in the real estate and housing marketplace. I thank my colleagues for introducing this important and timely legislation that I was proud to co-sponsor and vote in favor of. Every New Yorker deserves equal treatment in our real estate industry, and no one should be impeded in their ability to achieve homeownership because of the color of their skin.”
New York law also prohibits discrimination based on lawful source of income.
On August 11, 2020, effective immediately, the governor signed an amendment to the Human Rights Law requiring landlords to provide tenants the use of an animal as a reasonable accommodation to alleviate symptoms or effects of disability. Alfred M. Fazio with the law firm, Capruder Fazio Giacoia notes in a memorandum that “on the Federal level, HUD recently issued a memorandum detailing the rights of residents to use service and emotional support animals so New York State is confirming what the Federal Government has already enacted.”