Attorney General James Stops Discriminatory Practices at Long Island Real Estate Brokerage
Coldwell Banker Allegedly Violated Fair Housing Laws and Discriminated Against Prospective Homebuyers of Color
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced a settlement with Coldwell Banker, stopping the real estate brokerage’s alleged discrimination against Black, Hispanic, and other homebuyers of color on Long Island. Following an investigative report into housing discrimination conducted by Newsday, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) opened an investigation into Coldwell Banker and other real estate brokerages. The investigation found that Coldwell Banker agents may have subjected prospective homebuyers of color to different requirements than white homebuyers, directed homebuyers of color to homes in neighborhoods where residents predominantly belonged to communities of color, and otherwise engaged in biased behavior. As part of the settlement announced today, Coldwell Banker will pay $20,000 in penalties and $10,000 to Suffolk County to promote enforcement of and compliance with fair housing laws. Coldwell Banker will also make fair housing trainings available to all of its agents and provide a discrimination complaint form on its website. This settlement marks the fourth action Attorney General James has taken to stop illegal housing discrimination at Long Island real estate brokerages.
“There is zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind in New York state,” said Attorney General James. “My office’s investigation into Coldwell Banker uncovered a persistent pattern of prospective homebuyers receiving different treatment because of their race. Discriminating against people because of race is not just shameful — it is illegal. Housing is and always will be a human right, and my office will continue to address these pervasive and discriminatory practices statewide.”
The OAG opened an investigation into several real estate brokerage firms in 2019 after Newsday exposed their discriminatory practices. The investigation involved review of five paired tests conducted on Coldwell Banker agents — two from Great Neck and one each from East Setauket, Bellmore, and Massapequa Park.
In one instance, agents warned white potential homebuyers about the diverse racial makeup of the neighborhood but did not share the same comments with Black and Hispanic potential homebuyers. In another documented case, an agent was asked to be shown homes near Garden City by both a white prospective homebuyer and Black prospective homebuyer. The agent showed the white homebuyer listings in neighborhoods that were 83 percent white and discouraged them against looking at properties in Freeport, a more racially diverse neighborhood. Conversely, the same agent showed the Black homebuyer multiple properties in Freeport. In another neighborhood, an agent told a white potential homebuyer “you don’t really know in certain areas what you’re going to get next door,” when speaking about a more diverse neighborhood, but did not share the same criticism with a Black potential homebuyer.
In August 2022, Attorney General James and Governor Hochul announced settlements with Keller Williams Greater Nassau (KWGN), Keller Williams Realty Elite (KWRE), and Laffey Real Estate (LRE) for engaging in discriminatory practices that violated state and federal fair housing laws. The OAG will continue to work to protect all New Yorkers from unlawful discrimination. New Yorkers who have been subjected to discriminatory housing practices are encouraged to report such conduct to OAG at email@example.com.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Christina Bedell of the Nassau Regional Office, under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Deputy Bureau Chief Travis England and Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Nassau Regional Office Valerie Singleton. The Civil Rights Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux. The Nassau Regional Office is part of the Division for Regional Affairs, led by Deputy Attorney General Jill Faber. Both the Division for Social Justice and the Division of Regional Affairs are overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.