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Resources & Reports

What is Fair Housing?

Fair Housing is the right to choose to house free from unlawful discrimination. Federal, state, and local Fair Housing laws protect people from discrimination in housing transactions such as rentals, sales, lending, and insurance. It is illegal to discriminate in housing transactions based on protected classes.

In New York, protected classes include: 

Race, color, national origin, Immigration and Citizenship Status, Religion, sex (gender), familial status, disability, marital status, military status, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, status as a victim of domestic violence, sex offenses, and stalking, and source of income.  


Requirements under the fair housing laws apply to almost all types of housing and all housing providers in the public and private housing market, including property managers, owners, landlords, real estate agents, banks, credit unions, insurance companies, mortgage lenders, and appraisers.

What Conduct is Prohibited by Fair Housing Laws?

Discrimination can take many forms and occur at different stages of a housing transaction.

Here is a partial list of practices prohibited under fair housing laws:

  • Refusing to rent, sell, insure or finance housing, or refusing to negotiate for housing, or otherwise making housing unavailable.

  • Advertising or making any statement that indicates a preference, limitation, or discrimination.

  • Lying about the availability of housing.

  • Steering individuals into or away from certain buildings, parts of buildings, or neighborhoods to segregate populations.

  • Discriminating in the terms of conditions of housing or providing unequal services and facilities.

  • Refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation by altering rules, policies, practices, or services for persons with disabilities.

  • Failing to design and construct new multifamily housing built since 1991 in an accessible manner.

  • Refusing to allow a reasonable modification to the premises for persons with disabilities.

  • Harassing or failing to take corrective action regarding complaints about harassment.

  • Threatening, coercing, intimidating, interfering with or retaliating against a person for assisting others to exercise their fair housing rights.

Housing providers may adopt policies and qualifications for prospective home buyers and renters provided these policies 1) are applied in a uniform and neutral manner to all applicants; 2) do not discriminate based on any of the protected characteristics; and 3) do not have the effect of discriminating against groups of people based on any of the protected characteristics.

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