Fair housing

Accessible housing for everyone

Dear Friends,

Whether you live in a city, suburb,or rural community, finding safe, affordable housing can be a challenge.

Fortunately, our laws protect your right to choose where to live without discrimination based on race, religion, sex, or a number of other characteristics.

Federal and our state laws in New York exist to ensure that equal housing opportunities are available to all. Some local governments offer even more protections. This guidance explains some of those laws and includes information about what to do if you believe a landlord, seller, or lender has discriminated against you.

Housing is one of life’s essentials; it is important that everyone has access to it, free from discrimination. If you have any questions or concerns,  please contact my office.  

New York State Attorney General Signature
Headshot of Attorney General Letitia James. James stands in front of the American flag and the seal of the State of New York flag. She sits between the two flags and smiles at the camera.
An image of a family of four carrying boxes and a rug into a new, home. They are all smiling.

Fair housing laws: how we are protected

The federal Fair Housing Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, and various local laws prohibit discrimination by housing providers (including owners, real estate agents, managing agents, building superintendents, and cooperative and condominium boards), and lenders (banks and mortgage companies).

  • The Federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a person’s race, familial status (presence of children under age 18), color, national origin, religion, disability  (physical or mental), or sex.
  • The New York State Human Rights Law covers all the same characteristics, and also protects against discrimination based on creed, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression,  marital status, military status, or lawful source of income (public or housing assistance, Social Security, supplemental security income, pension, child support, alimony, foster care subsidies, annuities, or unemployment benefits). Many local governments have additional protections. The New York City Human Rights Law also covers: gender, citizenship status, partnership status, and lawful occupation.

Most housing is included

In the state of New York, anti-discrimination laws cover most types of housing, with four main exceptions:

  • one- or two-family owner-occupied buildings
  • room rentals in housing for individuals of the same sex, such as college dormitories or boarding houses where all residents are of the same sex
  • housing intended for people over the age of 55, or over the age of 62
  • room rentals in owner-occupied housing

Prohibited actions

These laws apply to the sale or rental of housing and also to mortgage lending and provide protections against different forms of housing discrimination including the following:

  • refusal to make reasonable modifications to a dwelling or common use area to accommodate a person’s disability
  • refusal to make reasonable accommodations in policies or services if necessary for disabled persons to use the housing

In addition, any multifamily housing built after 1991 must comply with accessibility requirements.

Repairing the damage

If it is found that discrimination has taken place, steps may be taken to remedy the situation. These can include:

  • requiring changes in policies and practices
  • making the housing or loan available
  • assessing money damages or attorney fees or Imposing civil fines and penalties

Filing a complaint

If you have questions or believe you have been a victim of housing discrimination, the following agencies may be able to help. You can find contact information for each at the bottom of this web page.

  • The Civil Rights Bureau of the Office of the New York State Attorney General investigates and prosecutes discriminatory policies and patterns or practices of discrimination. The bureau is committed to combating housing discrimination throughout the state.
  • The New York State Division of Human Rights handles individual complaints of discrimination. You have one year after an alleged violation to file a complaint.
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) handles individual complaints of discrimination based on the federal Fair Housing Act. You have one year after an alleged violation to file a complaint.
  • The New York City Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) handles individual complaints of discrimination based on the New York City Human Rights Law.

You have one year after an alleged violation to file a complaint. You are precluded from filing a claim with CCHR if you have already filed the same claim based on the same facts with another agency or in court.

Office of the New York State Attorney General Civil Rights Bureau
28 Liberty Street
New York NY 10005
1-800-788-9898 (TDD) 
Civil Rights Bureau

New York State Division of Human Rights
One Fordham Plaza, 4th Floor
Bronx NY 10458
718-741-8300 (TDD/TTY)

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Fair Housing Enforcement Center
26 Federal Plaza, Room 3541
New York NY 10278-0068
212-264-0927 (TTY)

New York City Human Rights Commission
22 Reade Street, First Floor
New York NY 10007