Attorney General James Stops Illegal Housing Discrimination in Westchester County
AG James Takes Action Against Real Estate Broker Who Denied Housing to Low-Income Renters
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced an agreement with real estate broker Pasquale Marciano and his companies, Century 21 Marciano, Anthony Marciano Real Estate Inc., and New Roc Property Management to stop illegal policies that denied housing opportunities to low-income renters. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG), with assistance from the Housing Rights Initiative (HRI), found that real estate agents, who Marciano oversees, violated local and state laws by refusing to rent apartments to investigators who indicated that they intended to use a Section 8 Housing Choice voucher to pay rent. As part of the agreement with OAG, Marciano, who owns 13 multifamily rental properties throughout New Rochelle with a total of 76 units, must place nine tenants using Section 8 or other government housing subsidies in units he owns and pay $40,000 to the state, among other actions to make housing more accessible for low-income renters.
“Discrimination against low-income New Yorkers denies opportunities to those most in need of housing assistance,” said Attorney General James. “This agreement will open up housing specifically for low-income New Yorkers and send a clear message that this kind of discrimination is unacceptable in our communities. I want to thank the Housing Rights Initiative for their help with this investigation and consistent work to fight housing discrimination.”
Refusing to rent to prospective tenants based on their source of income is illegal discrimination under New York law, and wrongly denies New Yorkers equal access to housing. Owners, landlords, property managers, rental agents, and brokers cannot refuse to accept potential tenants solely because they receive housing subsidies. Government-issued rental vouchers, such as the Section 8 Housing Choice voucher program, provide housing assistance to the lowest-income households to rent decent, safe housing in the private market. These programs also aid senior citizens and disabled persons on fixed incomes, displaced families, and homeless individuals with disabilities.
At the time of the investigation, Marciano, as the owner and head real estate broker at Century 21 Marciano, oversaw the rental leasing practices of more than 25 real estate sales agents representing Westchester landlords seeking to rent apartments. An investigation done by HRI revealed that Century 21 Marciano enforced a policy that prohibited Section 8 holders from submitting applications for rental units. Century 21 Marciano agents specifically told investigators that the units they inquired about did not accept Section 8 vouchers because they “preferred not to” — a violation of state and local antidiscrimination laws.
Under the agreement with OAG, Marciano and any customer-facing staff member at his companies must undergo anti-discrimination training. Marciano must also implement an anti-discrimination policy and distribute it to everyone involved in the rental process at his companies. Rental applications must include clear anti-discrimination statements containing the sentence, “we are happy to consider applicants who have housing vouchers or subsidies.” Additionally, Marciano must publicly advertise all vacant units and include that government housing vouchers, such as Section 8, are accepted on every rental listing. Finally, Marciano must ensure that rental application fees are capped at the $20 maximum and, during the five-year period of the agreement, must also waive broker fees for any applicants seeking to use a government housing subsidy for their rental.
“Our work with Attorney General Letitia James showcases New York State’s commitment to dismantling the harmful and illegal practice of housing voucher discrimination,” said Josh Murillo, Deputy Director of Housing Rights Initiative. “These efforts will open up apartments for countless families and increase housing opportunities for everyday New Yorkers. We extend our sincere appreciation to the Attorney General and her office for proactively and systematically addressing this critical issue head-on.”
“As the sole provider of free-comprehensive civil legal services in the Hudson Valley, we often provide legal advocacy to fight injustices like this,” said Jill Bradshaw-Soto, Chief Program Officer of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley. “These practices, left unchecked, deeply harm our community and perpetuate the cycle of poverty. This agreement Attorney General James secured is a win for all low-income New Yorkers affected by discrimination and systemic oppression in housing matters.”
“Refusal to rent to anyone based on their source of income is not only illegal and discriminatory but robs a potential tenant of the ability to access affordable and stable housing,” said Ron Abad, CEO of Community Housing Innovations, Inc. “We need to continue to work collectively to reduce and eliminate all barriers to housing and develop opportunities for all New Yorkers to access quality and affordable housing. Community Housing Innovation (CHI) applauds New York Attorney General Letitia James for taking action on behalf of New York renters.”
Attorney General James has consistently taken action to fight housing discrimination and protect low-income tenants. In October 2023, Attorney General James took action against another Westchester property owner and manager for discriminating against low-income renters. In 2022, Attorney General James took action to stop “tenant blacklisting” and partnered with HRI to stop the real estate company Compass from denying housing to low-income New Yorkers. In July 2022, Attorney General James recovered nearly $300,000 of illegally withheld security deposits for Brooklyn tenants. In April 2022, Attorney General James sued Brooklyn-based eviction lawyers for engaging in deceptive rent collection practices and initiating frivolous lawsuits against New York tenants.
It is illegal in New York State for any owner, managing agent, broker, or any other representative to refuse to rent, sell, or lease housing to any person based on their source of income. New Yorkers who suspect they are victims of source of income discrimination are encouraged to file a complaint online.
This matter was led by Sandra Giorno-Tocco, Assistant Attorney General for Public Advocacy in the Westchester Regional Office of the Attorney General led by Andy Aujla, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Westchester Regional Office, Jill Faber, Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs and Jane Landry-Reyes, Assistant Attorney General in the Housing Protection Unit, led by Brent Meltzer, Chief of the Housing Protection Unit. The Housing Protection Unit is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.