Cuomo Signs Bill to Penalize Real Estate Agents Who Discriminate

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo  signed legislation  Monday giving the Department of State the authority to revoke or suspend the licenses of real estate professionals who violate the state Human Rights Law.

The legislation grew out of reports by Newsday of race-based discrimination by Long Island real estate agents.

State Sen. James Gaughran, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said, “”This law will provide teeth to the enforcement of New York’s Human Rights Law and ensure that real estate agents cannot engage in racist practices like ‘steering’ that deny families the dignity of choosing their home and neighborhood. I thank Governor Cuomo for his swift signing of this bill into law.”

The new law also complements the Department’s existing regulations, which authorize the Secretary to discipline licensed agents and brokers that have engaged in any unlawful discriminatory practice.

“We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind in New York and the sheer scope and breadth of the unscrupulous and discriminatory real estate practices uncovered on Long Island is repugnant to who we are,” Cuomo said. “While the federal government is focused on gutting fair housing regulations that have helped so many Americans, we are vastly expanding the State’s ability to crack down on unethical real estate agents and protect hard-working New Yorkers looking for a community to call home.”

In November, Newsday published a series of undercover stories that showed agents setting different requirements for potential buyers based on their race and steering potential buyers to different communities.

 Immediately following the Newsday report, the Governor directed the Division of Human Rights, the Division of Homes and Community Renewal, and Department of State to launch a joint investigation into reports of widespread discrimination among real estate agents on Long Island.

In December, Governor Cuomo announced new regulations for real estate professionals to help combat discrimination in the housing market statewide. The new regulations, which were approved by the New York State Real Estate Board, mandated enhanced disclosures by real estate professionals to help ensure prospective home buyers, renters, sellers and landlords receive ample information about their rights and protections under New York State law. The Governor also announced several additional initiatives to combat housing discrimination across New York State, which included launching a comprehensive social media campaign and housing discrimination hotline to raise awareness.

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