BARRISTER’S BRIEFING: April is Fair Housing Month—Time for a Refresher

New York has gone to great lengths to ensure that consumers are treated fairly. All licensees are now tasked with ensuring all members of the public are treated with equity to ensure that steering and all other forms of discrimination are rooted out and eliminated.

BARRISTER’S BRIEFING: April is Fair Housing Month—Time for a Refresher
Brian S. Levine, Esq., General Counsel & Professional Standards Administrator, Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.

April is Fair Housing Month, so let’s take a look at all things relating to fair housing.

Back in 2019, Newsday, after conducting a three-year investigation, published “Long Island Divided,” an expose´ that uncovered discriminatory real estate practices performed by real estate licensees. These practices targeted certain protected classes by providing unequal treatment when those members of the public sought properties. As a result of this expose´, as well as other fair housing issues that were being uncovered, New York legislators decided it was necessary for them to become involved. Since that time, they have established a series of laws designed to prevent discrimination in the housing industry and bolster fair housing.

Protected Classes

Currently, there are seven protected federal classes. They are:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Familial Status
  • Disability
  • Sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation)

In New York, the current protected classes have increased to 16. They are:

  • Race
  • Creed
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Military status
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Marital status
  • Lawful source of income
  • Familial status
  • Status as a victim of domestic violence
  • Immigration status
  • Citizenship

Fair Housing and Anti-Discrimination Form

The NY Housing and Anti-Discrimination Form (HADF) was created in 2020. The purpose of the form is to advise any consumer (buyer, tenant, seller, landlord) of New York’s anti-discrimination policies under the law. The form discusses how it is unlawful to discriminate, how real estate licensees are required to comply with the law, and how/where a consumer can file a complaint if they believe that they are being discriminated against. It is required to be provided to all consumers and applies to all property types. It must be provided at “first substantive contact” and a copy of the notice must be retained for at least three years by the licensee.

Fair Housing and Anti-Discrimination Notice

The Fair Housing and Anti-Discrimination Notice is an additional safeguard regarding inappropriate discriminatory practices. Under 19 NYCRR §175.29, all real estate brokers are required to post the fair housing law notice in the window of all their offices and branch offices or otherwise have it “prominently posted.” This notice is provided by the New York Division of Licensing. This notice must also be posted at all open houses. Further, they must “prominently and conspicuously” display a link to it on the homepage of all the websites managed for the brokerage and/or its agents.

Standard Operating Procedures

As a result of the discriminatory practices uncovered over the years, a new regulation was put in place to create transparency for those who were looking to purchase a property (buyers only, not renters). This new regulation requires that all brokerages establish Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). These procedures boil down to whether the brokerage will mandatorily require the production of three possible items from a prospective buyer. The three items were:

  • Identification
  • Exclusive broker agreement
  • Pre-approval for a mortgage.

The brokerage can choose to require all, some, or none of these items. All agents within the brokerage must follow the brokerage’s rule and they cannot establish their own SOP. If the brokerage requires a certain item, that item will be required from all prospective buyers. If the SOP indicates that the item is not required, the agents can request the item, but they are still required to work with that buyer in the event that the buyer refuses to provide the item.

Not only is the brokerage required to keep a copy of their notarized SOP, but they must post their SOP in a “clear and conspicuous” manner on all their broker websites and mobile applications and make a copy available upon request.

Reasonable Modification and Accommodations

In order to further protect those prospective renters with disabilities, real estate licensees must provide a notice that sets forth the rights a disabled individual has to request reasonable modifications or accommodations to or in their “housing accommodation.”

“Housing accommodation” is defined as “…any building, structure, or portion thereof which is used or occupied or is intended, arranged or designed to be used or occupied, as the home, residence or sleeping place of one or more human beings.” This notice is to be provided at “first substantive contact,” similar to the fair housing notices. This notice can be provided in person or electronically and it must be posted in every vacant housing unit available for rent. Additionally, housing providers, including brokerages, agents and team websites, must prominently and conspicuously display on the homepage of their websites a link to the notice.

Licensing Requirements

With an eye toward increasing education relating to fair housing, the New York legislature increased the requirements to obtain a broker license to 152 total hours and a salesperson course hour requirement to 77 hours, with six hours focused on fair housing for salespersons. It further required instructors to provide an oath that they are teaching their courses in compliance with New York state licensing parameters.

The state also created an additional $30 surcharge to the license fee for real estate brokers and an additional $10 surcharge to the license fee for real estate salespersons, which is to be applied toward the anti-discrimination in housing fund. They also increased the maximum fine for real estate license violations from $1,000 to $2,000. These funds would also be applied to the anti-discrimination in housing fund.

Continuing Education

Possibly the biggest change the state made is to the continuing education requirement for all real estate licensees. Of the 22.5 hours required by all real estate licensees every two years, licensees are now required to complete two hours of cultural competency and two hours of implicit bias. They are further required to complete three hours of fair housing. Add to that, 2.5-hours of business ethics and one-hour of agency law, this leaves agents with 11 hours of free electives.

Other Developments

To ensure that agents remain compliant with all the recent developments, including the new fair housing laws, New York now requires that all office managers possess the proper experience to oversee all the brokerage’s licensees. As such, all supervisors must be an associate broker for at least two years before assuming the role of office manager and their obligation to supervise the office agents is similar to that of the broker.

The state also amended the NYS Human Rights Law concerning unlawful discriminatory practices, extending the Statute of Limitations from one year to three years for any claim arising after Feb. 15, 2024.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has designated nearly $5 million in state funding toward fair housing testing and vowed to crack down on lawful source of income discrimination, particularly those involving Section 8 vouchers.

As for its part, NAR has added a requirement that all Realtors must now complete two hours of fair housing training as a part of their triennial Code of Ethics training cycle and NAR is providing courses that can satisfy this requirement.


New York has gone to great lengths to ensure that consumers are treated fairly. All licensees are now tasked with ensuring all members of the public are treated with equity to ensure that steering and all other forms of discrimination are rooted out and eliminated.

Brian Levine

Brian S. Levine, Esq. is General Counsel and Professional Standards Administrator for the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.

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