Attorney General James blocks real estate firm Compass from denying housing to low-income New Yorkers
Compass officers told tenants with housing vouchers they could not apply for Apartment listings
Second action by AG James this week to protect New Yorkers from housing discrimination
NEW YORK — New York Attorney General Letitia James has reached an agreement with real estate brokerage, Compass Inc. (Compass), to protect low-income tenants. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG), with assistance from the Housing Rights Initiative (HRI), found that Compass realtors were refusing to process rental applications from low-income tenants in Manhattan because they had a proper of Section 8, a violation of New York laws that protect tenants from discrimination based on source of income. Under New York law, a legal source of income for housing includes any form of federal, state, or local housing assistance, including Section 8 vouchers. Today, Compass is required to waive all brokerage fees for the first 25 applicants with Section 8 vouchers, update employee trainings, and post signs that they accept vouchers. ‘housing assistance.
“Landlords and brokers who deny housing to tenants based on their source of income are exacerbating the housing crisis,” said Attorney General James. “No tenant should be turned away from an apartment because they have a housing title. This agreement will ensure that Compass does not close its doors to New Yorkers who are simply looking for a place to call home. My office will continue to take measures to protect New Yorkers from unfair housing practices and hold those who violate the law accountable.
Government-issued rental vouchers, such as the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, provide housing assistance to New York’s lowest-income households to rent or buy decent, safe housing on the housing market. private accommodation. These programs also help seniors and people with disabilities on fixed incomes, displaced families, and homeless people with disabilities.
In December 2021, OAG, based on information provided by HRI, opened an investigation into whether Compass agents had discriminated against potential tenants because they had housing assistance vouchers. Compass agents allegedly told them that landlords in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen and Upper East Side neighborhoods would not accept their rental applications because of the applicants’ intention to use vouchers from the Section 8. City and State law prohibits landlords, landlords, property managers, and leasing agents from refusing to accept prospective tenants solely because they are receiving legal housing assistance.
As a result of today’s agreement, Compass will not charge brokerage fees for the first 25 applicants who apply using a federal HCV through a Compass list or agent and will notify local public housing authorities of these derogations. Additionally, to incentivize its real estate sales staff to accept applicants with housing vouchers, the agreement requires Compass to pay its agents 90% of the broker’s commission if a HCV tenant is accepted into an apartment.
The agreement also requires Compass to review its training materials and take steps to ensure that its agents are aware that they cannot reject applicants who use rental assistance programs and that applicants using these programs cannot be subject to income or credit score requirements. Compass must also post signs in all New York City offices facing the public stating that they accept Section 8 vouchers and other rental assistance.
“Today’s settlement with one of the largest real estate companies is an important step in ending widespread housing discrimination and protecting vulnerable tenants in New York City,” said Aaron Carr, Founder and Executive Director of Housing Rights Initiative. “To deny housing to tenants simply because they have a housing voucher is not only illegal, but also inhumane. I thank Attorney General James and his team for all they do to protect tenants and taxpayers.”
“It is shameful for any landlord or broker to deny apartments to bona fide tenants, especially in the current housing crisis,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “Thank you to Attorney General James for powerfully reminding the real estate industry that housing discrimination will not be tolerated in New York City. New Yorkers deserve better than name-based housing assistance, and this agreement underscores that no tenant may be denied housing based on their use of federal, state, or local housing assistance vouchers.
“Discriminating against tenants based on the use of a housing assistance voucher is not only immoral; it’s illegal,” said New York City Council member Erik Bottcher. “Fortunately, New Yorkers have Attorney General Letitia James watching their backs. I am grateful to Attorney General James and his team for ensuring that no form of discrimination is allowed in our state.
“Realtors who violate income discrimination laws by refusing to process rental applications involving housing assistance vouchers will be held accountable,” said Julie Menin, New York City Council Member. “Our city is going through an affordable housing crisis and automatically rejecting low-income applicants is unconscionable. I commend Attorney General Letitia James for investigating discrimination against potential tenants.”
The settlement is part of Attorney General James’ ongoing efforts to protect tenants from discrimination based on source of income, where she is partnering with local organizations including HRI. Earlier this week, Attorney General James sued an Ithaca landlord for refusing to house low-income tenants.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Eubank of the Brooklyn Regional Office, Assistant Attorney General Jane Landry-Reyes of the Housing Protection Unit and Assistant Attorney General Joe Marrero of the Civil Rights Office. The Brooklyn Regional Office is headed by Assistant Attorney General in Charge Michael Barbosa and is part of the Regional Affairs Division, which is headed by Assistant Attorney General Jill Faber. The Housing Protection Unit is led by Chief Brent Meltzer. Both the Housing Protection Unit and the Civil Rights Office are part of the Social Justice Division, which is headed by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux. The Regional Affairs Division and the Social Justice Division are overseen by Senior Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.