Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence in Rental Housing

June 14, 2018 | By Charles Botensten

Q: I understand that New York State recently altered its fair housing laws to protect victims of domestic violence from discrimination in rental housing. Can you please explain the protections provided under the new law.

A: Effective as of January 2016, Section 227-d of the New York State Real Property Law ("the Law") expressly prohibits any "person, firm or corporation owning or managing any building used for dwelling purposes, or the agent of such person, firm or corporation" from discriminating against individuals based upon their status as a "domestic violence victim." Please note that the Law does not apply "to buildings used for dwelling purposes that are owner occupied and have two or fewer residential units."

Specifically, it is a violation of the Law to discriminate against a "domestic violence victim" by:

(1) refusing to rent a residential unit, when, but for such status, the rental would not have been refused,

(2) discriminating in the terms, conditions, or privileges of any such rental, when, but for such status, such discrimination would not have occurred, or

(3) printing or circulating, or causing  to be printed or circulated, any statement, advertisement or publication which expresses, directly or indirectly, any limitation, specification, or discrimination. 

The Law defines a "domestic violence victim" as an individual "who is or has been, or is a parent accompanied by a minor child… who is or has been," a victim of an act that would constitute a violent felony or family offense under New York State law. Examples of felonies or offenses that qualify under the Law include, but are not limited to, assault, sexual abuse, reckless endangerment and kidnapping.

Important Tip: Also effective as of January 2016, Section 744 of the New York Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law prohibits landlords from evicting tenants based on the tenant’s status as a "domestic violence victim."

The Legal Line Question by:
Neil B. Garfinkel
REBNY Broker Counsel

Partner-in-charge of real estate and banking practices at Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson, LLP