Housing discrimination is a serious issue in the New York real estate market. As the New York Attorney General's office has advised, federal law prohibits any discrimination by “housing providers” on the basis of “color, national origin, religion, disability (physical or mental), or sex.” Additionally, New York state law bans discrimination based on “creed, age, sexual orientation, marital status, or military status.”
A housing provider, it should be noted, does not just mean a person renting an apartment. It can include real estate agents or anyone with the power to approve or deny a person's ability to obtain housing. For example, if a condominium or co-op board rejects a potential buyer based on his or her membership in a protected class, that would constitute illegal housing discrimination.
Nassau Co-Op Faces Second Lawsuit Over Discrimination Against Unmarried Persons
An ongoing case on Long Island further illustrates how housing discrimination may affect innocent third parties as well as the actual victim. In this case, a now-deceased couple wanted to sell their cooperative apartment in Nassau County. They identified a buyer and entered into an agreement to sell the apartment for $200,000, subject to approval from the co-op board.
The board rejected the buyer, ostensibly because it found the negotiated price too low. The buyer made multiple offers to increase his bid in order to meet the board's concerns. The board never responded to any of these offers, and it appears it never actually met to even formally discuss the matter.
Ultimately, the buyer sued the co-op and the couple, claiming he was a victim of housing discrimination. More precisely, the buyer alleged the co-op board denied his offer solely because he was an unmarried male, which would constitute discrimination based on marital status in violation of New York state law. To that end, the rejected buyer pointed to the fact the co-op board eventually approved the sale of the apartment to a married couple for $40,000 less than his original offer. (In the interim, the board rejected a second buyer, who was also unmarried.)
The co-op board eventually settled the buyer's lawsuit for an undisclosed amount. But then the couple who sold the apartment filed their own lawsuit against both the co-op and the individual board members. (The lawsuit is now being pursued by the administrator of the couple's estates.) Among other things, the lawsuit alleges “breach of contract” in that the board violated the co-op lease's “implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing when it failed to approve” the first two buyers.
In December 2015, a Nassau County Supreme Court judgedenied the co-op's motion to dismiss these claims. Indeed, the judge said it was not even necessary to allege a violation of any implied duty. The lease “expressly forbids the co-op from rejecting a prospective purchaser unreasonably.” Accordingly, the judge said the estates have already presented sufficient evidence to justify trial on this issue.