Last April, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced its new guidelines on fair housing. A housing provider may not refuse to rent or renew a lease to an individual based on his or her criminal background and those who do may be in violation of the New York Fair Housing Act. Prior to this action, denying someone housing based on past criminal records was not considered discriminatory.
Established in 1968, the Fair Housing Act prohibits the housing discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, disability, financial status or national origin.” While criminal background is not a protected category, discrimination on these grounds has a negative impact on members of protected racial groups that have higher rates of arrests, convictions and incarceration. For this reason, housing providers must ensure that they have a balanced approach to evaluating candidates and do not have a policy in place that bans applicants with a criminal history.
According to Real Estate Weekly, HUD guidelines outline a multi-step framework to assess whether a housing provider’s policy may be discriminatory. For the first step, the individual making the claim must show that “a disparate impact has actually resulted from the policy.” In the second step, the housing provider must show proof that he or she has a “substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest” upholding the policy that is in place and the policy itself “actually achieves that interest.” In the final step, the claimant has to provide evidence that the interest served by the policy could be achieved through an alternative means that is not discriminatory.
Navigating the complexities of New York real estate legislation and guidelines can be difficult. A New York real estate lawyer can help guide you through the process. The attorneys at Blodnick, Fazio & Associates P.C. have experience representing clients in complex residential and commercial real estate transactions. Contact the firm at (516) 280-7105 for a free consultation today.