Your right to be free from discrimination

Fair Housing Laws: How We Are Protected

The federal Fair Housing Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, and various local laws, prohibit discrimination by housing providers (including owners, real estate agents, managing agents, building superintendents, cooperative and condominium boards), and lenders (banks and mortgage companies).

  • The Federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a person’s race, familial status (presence of children under age 18), color, national origin, religion, disability (physical or mental), or sex. 
  • The NYS Human Rights Law covers all the same characteristics, but also protects against discrimination based on creed, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, military status, or lawful source of income (public or housing assistance, social security, supplemental security income, pension, child support, alimony, foster care subsidies, annuities or unemployment benefits).

Many local governments, have additional protections. The New York City Human Rights Law also covers: gender, citizenship status, partnership status, or lawful occupation.

Most Housing Is Included

In New York State, anti-discrimination laws cover most types of housing, with four main exceptions:

  • One- or two-family owner-occupied buildings;
  • Room rentals in housing for individuals of the same sex, such as college dormitories or boarding houses where all residents are of the same sex;
  • Housing intended for people over the age of 55, or over the age of 62; and 
  • Room rentals in owner-occupied housing.

Prohibited Actions

These laws apply to the sale or rental of housing and also to mortgage lending and provide protections against different forms of housing discrimination including the following:

  • Refusing to rent, sell, finance, insure or negotiate for housing;
  • Making housing unavailable;
  • Setting different terms or conditions, or providing unequal services;
  • Printing or circulating a discriminatory advertisement;
  • Refusing to make or provide information for a loan, or imposing different terms or conditions; or
  • Harassing, threatening, intimidating, or coercing anyone, including sexual harassment.

Persons Living with a Disability Are Protected

Under the fair housing laws, a landlord may not:

  • Refuse to make reasonable modifications to a dwelling or common use area to accommodate a person’s disability;
  • Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in policies or services if necessary for the person living with a disability to use the housing; or
  • In addition, any multifamily housing built after 1991 must comply with accessibility requirements.

Repairing the Damage

If it is found that discrimination has taken place, steps may be taken to remedy the situation. These can include:

  • Requiring changes in policies and practices;
  • Making the housing or loan available;
  • Assessing money damages and/or attorney fees; or imposing civil fines and penalties.

Filing a Complaint

If you have questions or believe you have been a victim of housing discrimination, the following agencies may be able to help: 

New York State Office of the Attorney General Civil Rights Bureau

28 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10005
(212) 416-8250
(800) 788-9898 (TDD)

New York State Division of Human Rights

One Fordham Plaza, 4th Floor
Bronx, NY 10458
(718) 741-8300 (TDD/TTY)

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Fair Housing Enforcement Center

26 Federal Plaza, Room 3541
New York, NY 10278-0068
(212) 264-0927 (TTY)

New York City Human Rights Commission

22 Reade Street, First Floor
New York, NY 10007
(212) 306-7450


Also, if you feel your rights have been violated, or have questions, you can search for a legal aid organization in your area here.