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THE RIGHTS OF APARTMENT-HUNTERS AND APPLICANTS WITH DISABILITIES

Persons with physical or mental disabilities have the civil and human right to search and apply for housing without the concern that their disability will be the deciding factor, much less play any role whatsoever, in a housing provider’s consideration of their inquiry or application.  Federal, state, and city laws prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities by housing providers – property owners, landlords, housing-management companies, co-op boards, real-estate brokers, salespersons, and real-estate boards – and their employees.  This ban equally applies to discriminatory housing policies and practices directed at apartment-hunters and applicants without disabilities who live with or are associated with individuals with disabilities, or will in the future.

 

A potent weapon in the fight against disability-based housing discrimination is New York State’s Human Rights Law.   In connection with the sale, rental, or leasing of housing, it makes it illegal:

 

  • To refuse to sell, rent, or lease housing to persons with disabilities.

 

Example:        A landlord has a policy of not renting to persons who are blind because she is concerned they will start fires when cooking or cause floods when washing dishes or bathing.

 

  • To offer different – less favorable or stricter – terms, conditions, or privileges to persons with disabilities than to persons without disabilities in the sale, rental, or leasing of housing.

 

Example:        A landlord makes the parents of children with a noticeable physical disability to agree that their children will never use the playground, laundry room, or elevator without parental supervision.

 

  • To provide different – less favorable, inferior, segregated – facilities or services to persons with disabilities in connection with the sale, rental, or leasing of housing

 

Example:        A landlord steers applicants with visual disabilities to apartments in the back of his building where there is less sunlight, believing that the sunnier apartments will better serve people who can see well.

 

  • To print or circulate a statement, advertisement, or publication in the sale, rental, or leasing of housing that expresses a limitation or specification that discriminates against persons with disabilities

 

Example:        An on-line or printed ad for an apartment says:  “Persons with mental problems or seeing-eye dogs need not apply.”

  • To use an application in the sale, rental, or leasing of housing that expresses any limitation or specification that discriminates against persons with disabilities

 

Example:        An application asks you to make a list of your disabilities or to check off from a list of disabilities.

 

  • To make any record or inquiry in connection with the prospective purchase, rental, or lease of housing accommodation that expresses any limitation or specification that discriminates against persons with disabilities

 

Example:        In asking you for more information about your background, the landlord says:  “You’re not in AA or any groups like that, are you?  People in recovery give me the willies.”

 

  • To discriminate against a sight- or hearing-impaired person because of his or her use of a guide dog, hearing dog, or service dog.

 

Example:        A landlord has a policy of turning away people with a guide dog, fearing that dog will urinate or defecate in the apartment or common areas.

 

In addition to the above restrictions, the New York State Human Rights Law makes it illegal for real estate brokers, real estate salespersons, and real estate boards and their employees:

 

  • To refuse to negotiate for the sale, rental, or leasing of housing.

 

Example:        A real estate agent refuses to negotiate for the rental of housing with a person with a disability.

 

  • To represent that housing is not available for sale, rental or lease when it is available.

 

Example:        A real estate salesperson shows housing to a person without an apparent disability but then tells a person who uses a wheel chair or is accompanied by a seeing-eye dog or a sign-language interpreter that the same housing is not available for rental.

 

NOTE:              There are only two types of housing accommodations that are exempt from the New York State Human Rights Law’s prohibition of disability-based discrimination:  rental units in two-family homes occupied by the owner, and rentals in rooming houses occupied by the owner or a member of the owner’s family.

 

 

IF YOU SUSPECT THAT YOU HAVE BEEN THE VICTIM OF HOUSING DISCRIMINATION IN VIOLATION OF THE NEW YORK STATE HUMAN RIGHTS LAW, YOU SHOULD CONTACT:

 

The New York State Division of Human Rights

One Fordham Plaza, 4th Floor, Bronx, NY 10458

718-741-8400; Toll-free number:  1-888-392-3644