It can be difficult for anyone to find suitable housing to rent in New York City. However, there are some people who face added challenges of discrimination by a landlord. This includes people who are or are perceived to have a certain immigration status.
Even though it is unlawful to discriminate against tenants or potential tenants based on national origin or immigration status, there are property owners who engage in such practices. Below, we examine what housing discrimination might look like and what you can do if you believe you are a victim.
Examples of discrimination by property owners
A landlord might discriminate against a person by:
- Charging more rent from someone believed to be an immigrant
- Prioritizing U.S. citizens over other candidates for housing
- Stating a preference in an ad for candidates in a specific category that discriminates against immigrants
- Rejecting a rental application because of someone’s appearance or accent
- Ignoring requests for repairs by tenants of a specific national origin
- Cutting off utilities or other basic services to force an immigrant tenant to leave
- Including restrictive or adverse clauses in the lease agreements of immigrants, but not other tenants
- Refusing to accept alternatives to Social Security numbers for an escrow account
Such actions or statements are unlawful, but they are not always obvious. Property owners or landlords may fabricate other reasons for a specific decision or lie about what they did or did not say.
However, if you believe a landlord discriminated against you based on real or perceived immigration status, you can take action.
What to do about discrimination in housing
If you know or suspect discrimination played a role in a housing decision against you, it is important to document the situation. Retain letters, emails, voicemails, receipts and other documents that illustrate disparate treatment.
You can also file a complaint. You can do this with the Law Enforcement Bureau of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, but you must do this within a year of the last instance of discrimination.
You may also choose to file a lawsuit against a landlord or property owner seeking damages. You can discuss this option in more detail with an experienced attorney. No one should have to suffer discrimination in housing. However, it can and does happen. When it does, victims can take steps to protect themselves, their rights and their homes.