Discrimination is illegal on multiple levels. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in dwellings based on race, the presence of minor children, disability, sex, religion, national origin and disability. The New York State Human Rights Law has the same prohibitions but adds additional classes (age, marital status, sexual orientation, creed and military status), who are protected against discrimination in housing. There even exist regulations on local levels: the New York City Human Rights Law also prohibits discrimination against all of the above classes and adds some not covered by the Federal or State laws such as citizenship, gender identity and lawful occupation.
Co-op and condo boards must comply with these laws when reviewing purchase and sale applications or when an individual with a disability requests a reasonable accommodation. While they may seem straightforward, there are some areas where you may encounter difficulty figuring out if they apply and what are your obligations and responsibilities.
Boards Cannot discriminate against any of these classes
A co-op board cannot reject an applicant and a condominium board cannot exercise its right of first refusal based upon protected classifications from anyone in any protected class. Boards should make sure that their applications do not improperly inquire into the status of protected classes. Questions about race, marital status, children, religion or any other protected area is an invitation to a discrimination claim and should be eliminated from the application.
Boards must make reasonable accommodations
If an individual with a disability requests a reasonable accommodation from a rule, policy or physical barrier, the Co-op and/or Condo must look into the request. The obligations differ whether you are covered under Federal law, State law or NYC law. There are differences in the definition of who is considered disabled under the various statutes, who must pay for the cost of the accommodation and how you are obligated to respond to the request. As the penalties for non-compliance can be severe, you should not ignore any request and speak to an experienced attorney like those at Tane Waterman & Wurtzel, P.C. about how to respond to the request.