Legal Media Analysts

Friday, April 22, 2022

Housing Discrimination & Your Rights - What Victims Should Know

Discrimination in real estate is illegal throughout the United States and in certain states, like New York, there are even greater protections, rights, and damages available to victims.

Whether you were discriminated against by a seller, landlord, tenant co-op, condo, HOA, lender, real estate broker / salesperson, or property manager, you are entitled to compensation. This is true in housing and at places of public accommodation (i.e., shopping center, professional office, retail store, educational institution, recreational facility, and service center). This is often even true if the discrimination was unintentional or caused by the perpetrator's implicit biases.

Anti-discrimination rights and protections entitle victims to sue for compensation if discrimination occurred because of your protected status / protected class, which statuses / classes vary throughout the United States, but may include your race, ethnic background, visible traits (hair texture, hairstyle, donning of religious garments or items), color, national origin, citizenship status, alienage status, immigration status, lawful source of income (subsidy recipient status), occupation, religion, creed, marital status, partnership status, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression (transgender status), domestic violence victim status, stalking victim status, sex offense victim status, familial status, pregnancy, presence of children, handicap (disability), age, military status, uniformed service, veteran status, first responder status, arrest record, and sealed conviction record.

The law prevents real estate / housing providers from changing the terms, conditions, privileges, and/or availability of property based on your protected class status. It requires real estate brokers / salespersons to give you written disclosures that advise you of your rights. It prevents you from being treated differently from others where only the terms of your offer matter, not who you are.

If you are handicapped / disabled, you are also entitled to receive reasonable accommodations (change to policies / procedures / rules) and reasonable modification (change to structure) so that you can equally use and enjoy property. Plus, your actual diagnosis need not be fully revealed and can remain confidential when you seek such an accommodation / modification. Better yet, the cost of the accommodation cannot be charged to you, and in places like New York City, this is also true for the cost of modifications. The most common handicap / disability cases that we see involve service animals / emotional support animals in no pet properties, preferential / parking and ingress / egress ramps for mobility impairments, and other failure-to-accommodate cases. We are also involved in ADA failure-to-remove barrier cases and more. When it comes to handicapped / disabled people, it's all about providing access. 

If you receive subsidies, like Section 8 (Housing Choice Vouchers), or you are unemployed (i.e., retired, spousal / child support recipient, trust fund baby, student, disabled), your source of income cannot impact your housing choices. You are protected from offensive signage, improper applications, and/or wrongful questionnaires if they inquire about your employment status, request your W-2, or even solicit a letter of employment. Simply, seeing your voucher cannot be a prerequisite to seeing / viewing an apartment. Where you get the rent should be no one's business. 

Don't be afraid to speak-up. If you are advancing a fair housing and/or anti-discrimination right, you are protected from retaliation. Even if it is ultimately found that you were not discriminated against, you can nonetheless be compensated for facing unlawful coercion, intimidation, threats, or other types of interference with your anti-discrimination rights. This is not just true if you are advancing your own rights, it also applies if you are an ally who is aiding and/or encouraging someone else to exercise their rights to be free from discrimination.

Fair housing laws make housing available to everyone without stigma, loss of dignity, or other harms. If you are a victim, you can recover compensatory damages (being made whole), punitive damages (punishment damages), and your attorneys' fees. The perpetrator can lose their license (if licensed), be required to take trainings, and be ordered to stop their offensive behavior. There are fines and more. Discrimination is wrong and must be stopped.

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NY Real Estate Continuing Education Requirements Updated

What are the Continuing Education requirements for real estate agents in NY?

As of 9/21/2022. All licensees must receive 22.5 hours of continuing education every 2 years to stay licensed. NY Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons that were previously exempt from Continuing Education will no longer be exempt and will need to have completed the full CE requirements. The 22.5 hours must include:

  • 3 hours on Fair Housing &/or Discrimination
  • 2.5 hours on Ethical Business Practices
  • 1 hour on Recent Legal Matters governing the practice of real estate brokers and salespersons in New York, which may include statutes, laws, regulations, rules, codes, Department of State Opinions and Decisions, and Court Decisions
  • 1 hour on the Law of Agency (2 hours in the initial 2-year cycle)
  • 2 hours of Implicit Bias Awareness
  • 2 hours of Cultural Competency Training

Effective September 21, 2022, as part of the 22.5 hours of continuing education required to renew both real estate salespersons and brokers will be required to complete at least 2 hours of instruction pertaining to implicit bias awareness and at least two hours of cultural competency training. Implicit bias is defined as the attitudes or stereotypes that affect an individual’s understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner. Cultural competency is defined as understanding cultural norms, preferences and challenges within our diverse communities.

Below lists the new requirements effective September 21, 2022.

Any real estate licensee submitting an application for renewal for a license expiring on or after September 21, 2022 must successfully complete 22.5 hours of approved continuing education. The education must include at least two hours on the subject of cultural competency, at least two hours on the subject of implicit bias, at least two and a half hours on the subject of ethical business practices, at least one hour of recent legal matters, at least three hours of instruction pertaining to fair housing and/or discrimination in the sale or rental of real property or an interest in real property and at least one hour of instruction pertaining to the law of agency except in the case of the initial two-year licensing term for real estate salespersons, two hours of agency related instruction must be completed within the two-year period immediately preceding a renewal.

If you are renewing your license before 9/21/22: All licensees must receive 22.5 hours of continuing education every 2 years to stay licensed. NY Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons that were previously exempt from Continuing Education will no longer be exempt and will need to have completed the full CE requirements, including the new subjects prior to submitting a renewal on or after 7/1/2021. The 22.5 hours must include:

  • 3 hours on fair housing &/or discrimination
  • 2.5 hours on ethical business practices
  • 1 hour on recent legal matters governing the practice of real estate brokers and salespersons in New York, which may include statutes, laws, regulations, rules, codes, Department of State Opinions and Decisions, and Court Decisions
  • 1 hour on the law of agency (2 hours in the initial 2-year cycle)

Are there any exemptions for Continuing Education requirements for real estate agents in New York?

NY Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons that were previously exempt from Continuing Education will no longer be exempt and will need to have completed the full CE requirements, including the new subjects prior to submitting a renewal on or after 7/1/2021.

To satisfy your 2022 NY real estate continuing education requirements you can take our Package F. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Handicapped Parking Discrimination - Proposed Legislation

A disabled individual can sue a property owner and its tenants for discrimination if technical specifications for handicapped parking are not followed to a tee. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act provides disabled individuals with a national right to have access at places of public accommodation, including by such places providing the right number / dimensions / signage as to handicapped spaces. On the state and local level, disabled individuals have even greater rights as against property owners and tenants for parking access discrimination. Taken together, property owners and tenants are charged with doing the right thing or losing their shirt in a discrimination lawsuit. 

Yet, what happens when a property owner and their tenants do the right thing, but some IDIOT blocks the spaces? New York State's Legislators have proposed an amendment to the Vehicle and Traffic Law to increase enforcement against blocking spots by expanding the types of properties that are subject to the law where officers can ticket the offender and remove / impound the vehicle. 

If the law passes, A9805 will also become applicable to "a shopping center or facility which at least one but less than five separate retail stores and at least twenty off street parking spaces provided for use by the shopping public." 

However, the ticket is just $50 to $75. Is that enough? 

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Stop Sexual Assault and Harassment in Transportation Act Passes the House

The Stop Sexual Assault and Harassment in Transportation Act passed the House on March 30, 2022 and now makes its way to the senate. 

If passed, the Act will require airlines, railroads, vessels, buses, and transit entities (e.g., Uber / Lyft) to establish "a formal policy with respect to transportation sexual assault or harassment incidents" together with appropriate trainings. 

It is specifically designed to notice, warn, prevent, and combat sexual assault and harassment by the public and staff making transportation safe for all involved. 

The Act establishes civil penalties against harassers starting at $35,000. 

Shouldn't it be safe to travel and shouldn't it be safe to work in transit?

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

NYC Salary Transparency in Job Advertisements FAQ Published

The NYC Commission on Human Rights published its FAQ that needs to be reviewed and adhered to by any employer advertising positions that may be performed in NYC starting on May 15, 2022.  

If you are an employer who is seeking an employee whose job may be performed, in whole or in part, in NYC, you will need to comply with Local Law 32 of 2022, which requires salary transparency. 

To comply, employers' advertisements "must state the minimum and maximum salary they in good faith believe at the time of the posting." 

Be sure to do this correctly because the FAQ reminds employers that "[e]mployers and employment agencies who are found to have violated the NYCHRL may have to pay monetary damages to affected employees and civil penalties of up to $250,000."

Friday, March 25, 2022

Construction Workers' Wage & Hour Claims are about to Blow-Up

On March 18, 2022, a new NYS law provides that a General Contractor will now have 10 business days from receipt of notice of unpaid wages by a subcontractor's employee to pay such subcontractor's employee earned wages, benefits, and/or wage supplements earned, or such General Contractors can be sued for the wages for the previous 3 years. 

General Contractors must implement hour tracking for their subcontractors' employees immediately because they are liable for time and a half for overtime. 

Plus, General Contractors should act swiftly if they receive the new statutory 10 business day notice because if the subcontractors' employee sues, they will be liable for statutory penalties (liquidated damages) plus attorneys' fees in a court case.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing. Analysis with Andrew Lieb on NBC LX

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

More Attorneys' Fees Available under NYS Human Rights Law for Discrimination Cases

On March 18, 2022, Governor Hochul signed S7733 into law and clarified that "the awarding of attorney's fees in credit discrimination cases is not limited to only those discrimination cases alleging sex-based discrimination."

This law is particularly important for race discrimination, which is highly prevalent in the credit discrimination arena. 

Regardless, whenever a victim can recover his / her / its legal fees incident to overcoming discrimination, that's a good thing and this clarification is helpful for discrimination victims throughout NYS.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

US Supreme Court Invites Discrimination Against Same-Sex Applicant to Religious Organization

What happens when there is "an employment dispute between a religious employer and an applicant who was not hired because he disagreed with that employer’s religious views?" 

Stated otherwise, isn't allowing an employer to deny a job to someone who disagrees with their religious views a license to discriminate? 

To get specific, what should happen if a religious employer refuses to hire a bisexual applicant in a same-sex relationship just because of such orientation and relationship status? 

Should it matter if that applicant applied to work as a staff attorney rather than as a minister for the employer? 

While the US Supreme Court declined their opportunity to let us know for sure, with binding precedent, in Seattle's Union Gospel Mission v. Woods, their denial of certiorari seemingly indicates that they are inclined to allow religious employers to discriminate against same-sex individuals and prevent such individuals from working in any aspect within the organization, even outside of a religious job like a minister. 

Monday, March 21, 2022

New Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) Law for Real Estate Brokers Signed by NYS Governor

A new anti-discrimination law is set to replace the current Standard Operating Procedure Law for NYS real estate brokers / salespersons. 

The current law is explained at our blog here and Governor Hochul's prior memorandum, from when she signed such law, indicating a change in the future, is here

Now, Governor Hochul has signed S7729 and made her promised changes to the Standard Operating Procedure Law. 

If you are confused, here is the Lieb Cast discussing this confusion and straightening it all out.

Here are the big 4 takeaways:

1. Real Estate Brokers must have Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as to:

(i) whether prospective clients shall show identification;

(ii) whether an exclusive broker agreement is required; [and]

(iii) whether pre-approval for a mortgage loan is required; and

(iv) any other such standard operating procedures as the Secretary of State shall determine by regulation and upon notice and public hearing. 

2. Rather than brokerage firms being required to submit such SOPs to the Secretary of State, as required under the current law, under the new law, they will be required to first date stamp and notarize their SOPs, and then, post them on any publicly available website and mobile device application that the brokerage / team(s) / salesperson(s) maintain while also making them available, on request, to the public at their office locations;

3. On license renewal, brokers will be required to affirm their compliance with the new law to the Department of State; and 

4. Brokers must follow the current law until July 16, 2022 when this new law is first effective.

Remember, brokers who stray from their SOPs are going to have to explain, to DOS and/or in a discrimination lawsuit, why a particular buyer / tenant is being treated differently from the SOPs and how that act does not constitute discrimination.