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Discrimination Against Immigrant Renters Spikes, Prompting City Outreach

By Katie Honan | June 22, 2017 9:40am
 Cases of housing discrimination based on immigration status have increased over the last 12 months, prompting outreach from city officials.
Cases of housing discrimination based on immigration status have increased over the last 12 months, prompting outreach from city officials.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

JACKSON HEIGHTS — Landlord discrimination against immigrants has spiked nearly 40 percent from  2015 to 2016 prompting the city to launch an outreach campaign to educate renters about their rights.

In the wake of ongoing stories of landlords illegally harassing tenants — including one landlord in Corona who posted a sign in his apartment building saying he wouldn't re-sign leases unless tenants showed their immigration papers — representatives from the city's Commission on Human Rights and the Mayor's Office of Community Affairs are stepping up outreach to the community.

Agency representatives handed out fliers in English and Spanish at the Roosevelt Avenue subway station Tuesday following a rally at Diversity Plaza designed to show support and share information about legal rights for tenants as discrimination cases have increased. 

Cases of housing discrimination based on immigration status and national origin more than doubled between 2015 and 2016 — from 22 to 60, the agency said. 

When broken down by discrimination based just on immigration status, the increase is even more staggering. They investigated 31 cases of possible discrimination in 2016, compared with only two in 2015.

The city's Human Rights Law protects residents against discrimination based on age, immigration status, disability, gender, race, sexual orientation and more. 

But increasing pressures on tenants by landlords looking to increase rents, combined with the current political climate, has exacerbated the issue, officials and activists said.

"We definitely see tenant harassment as a problem across all protected categories, and I think that's more related to the affordability," Hollis Pfitsch, the deputy commissioner for the Commission on Human Rights' legal division, said after the rally.

If you're being harassed by a landlord for any reason, here's a guide to your legal rights, from the Commission on Human Rights:

► A landlord can't deny you a lease, charge more rent, offer different amenities or refuse repairs based on status. 

► If you're disabled, you can request a "reasonable accommodation" for your disability.

► You have a right to see all available housing — not just housing in a particular neighborhood or a particular apartment.

► Landlords who own buildings with six or more units have to accept government rental assistance like Section 8, SSI and other public assistance. 

► As a tenant, you have the right to be free from harassing or threatening behavior.

If you have been discriminated against, the city urges you to call 311 and ask for the NYC Commission on Human Rights.