Are Students a Protected Class in NYC Real Estate?

Students are not a protected class under NYC, NYS or federal fair housing laws. This may come as a surprise since NYC has the strictest fair housing laws in the country. However, students in NYC may fall under other protected classes such as age and familial status.

The following protected classes exist under state, federal and local fair housing laws in NYC:

  • Federal Fair Housing Act: Race, familial status (presence of children), color, national origin, religion, disability (physical or mental) and sex

  • New York State Human Rights Law: Creed, age, sexual orientation, marital status and military status

  • New York City Human Rights Law: Gender, citizenship status, partnership status, gender identity, lawful occupation and lawful source of income (including public assistance or housing assistance, social security, supplemental security income, pensions, annuities, or unemployment benefits)

As you can see, ‘students’ as a class is not mentioned as a protected class under federal, state or city fair housing laws.

However, it is illegal under the New York State Human Rights Law to be denied a housing opportunity because of your actual or perceived age.

Students obviously tend to be fairly young. Therefore, a landlord who maintains a ‘no student’ policy for the purpose of weeding out prospective tenants below a certain age may be in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law with respect to age discrimination.

By extension, a student who is denied housing as a result of this landlord’s ‘no student’ policy may have grounds to make a complaint on the basis of age discrimination.

Students are not a protected class under NYC, NYS or federal fair housing laws. However, a student may fall under other protected classes such as age and familial status.

Moreover, there is also a linkage between age and likely familial status (presence of children). In short, students are less likely to have children since they tend to be younger. Therefore, a landlord who upholds a ‘no student’ policy for the purpose of attracting tenants with children may also be in violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act with respect to familial status.

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In addition, a landlord who maintains a ‘no student’ policy for the purpose of excluding foreign tenants is also in violation of fair housing laws. Specifically, this policy violates both the Federal Fair Housing Act (protected class: national origin) and the New York City Human Rights Law (protected class: citizenship status).

It is also illegal for a landlord to discriminate in the terms, conditions, or privileges in the sale, rental, or lease of housing on the basis of a protected class.

For example, it is discriminatory for a landlord to charge a higher security deposit to students because the landlord thinks students are mostly younger people, and younger people are more likely to cause damage and receive noise complaints from neighbors. This unequal treatment violates the New York State Human Rights Law with respect to age discrimination.

Anyone who sells, rents, or leases housing in NYC must follow federal, state and local fair housing laws. This includes real estate brokers and agents, owners, tenants, subtenants, managing agents as well as agents and employees of the aforementioned persons.

If you believe you’re a victim of a fair housing violation in NYC, click here to submit a complaint to the New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR). Be sure to submit your complaint within one year of the last act of discrimination.

Upon receipt of your complaint, DHR will conduct a preliminary review to determine whether there is probable cause.

If DHR determines there is probable cause, the complaint will be tried at a public hearing before an administrative law judge. Subsequent to the public hearing, the DHR Commissioner will issue an order with a final decision either dismissing or sustaining the complaint. 

If the complaint is sustained, possible remedies include:

  • A change in policies and/or practices; reinstatement to a job

  • Benefits lost due to the discriminatory practice

  • The provision of services

  • Equal treatment in an accommodation, institution, or program

  • Compensation for emotional distress

  • Civil fines

NYS Housing and Anti-Discrimination Notice must be prominently posted in all real estate broker offices and all public open houses in New York City. In addition, agents are required to present the NYS Fair Housing and Anti-Discrimination Disclosure Form to all prospective purchasers, tenants, sellers or landlords upon first substantive contact.

Disclosure: Hauseit® and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal, financial or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, financial or accounting advice. No representation, guarantee or warranty of any kind is made regarding the completeness or accuracy of information provided.

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