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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Real estate brokerages settle NY’s claims of discriminatory practices

State Issues State Attorney General New York Fair Lending Enforcement Fair Housing Act Discrimination

State Issues

On August 30, the New York attorney general and governor announced a joint action taken against three Long Island real estate brokerage firms for allegedly engaging in illegal and discriminatory housing practices. According to the announcement, the Office of the Attorney General and New York Department of State commenced parallel investigations into the brokerage firms, in which they discovered that agents were allegedly violating the Fair Housing Act and New York state law when they allegedly “steered prospective homebuyers of color away from white neighborhoods and subjected them to different requirements than white homebuyers, and otherwise engaged in biased behavior.” In certain instances, agents were allegedly shown to have given preferential treatment to white homebuyers, disparaged neighborhoods of color, and directed prospective homebuyers of color to homes in neighborhoods predominantly resided by communities of color. 

Under the terms of the assurance of discontinuance, the brokerage firms agreed to stop the alleged conduct and will offer comprehensive fair housing training to all agents. Agents will also be required to enroll and take state-approved Fair Housing Act compliance courses. Two of the brokerage firms are also required to provide $25,000 to Suffolk County to promote enforcement and compliance with fair housing laws, while the third brokerage firm will pay $30,000 in penalties and costs to the Office of the Attorney General and $35,000 to Nassau County for fair housing testing.