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NY Law: Agents Who Discriminate Will Have License Revoked

The state boosted its level of enforcement after a 2019 Newsday investigation alleged that some Long Island real agents were steering buyers to like-race neighborhoods.

NEW YORK – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Monday that will allow the state to revoke real estate licenses if agents or brokers violate anti-discrimination laws.

“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 in a statement.

Cuomo is referencing a Nov. 17, 2019, investigative report conducted by Newsday that alleged some real estate professionals were steering clients toward housing and certain neighborhoods based on race. New York lawmakers cited that investigation as prompting them to take action through the new legislation.

James Whelan, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, said the law was an important step to helping protect clients. “All New Yorkers must have equal access and opportunity when searching for housing or commercial real estate,” Whelan said in a statement.

Some brokerage leaders, however, have spoken out against the Newsday investigation and have questioned its findings. One brokerage called the report “an unreliable, unethical, and unscientific attempt to create a news story where there is none.”

The Newsday article alleges that undercover testers found Black home shoppers received different treatment nearly half the time by real estate professionals. Other minority groups, such as Latinx and Asian home shoppers, also faced discrimination but less frequently, the report alleges.

In response, New York issued subpoenas to 67 agents and firms mentioned in the Newsday investigation.

Source: “State Can Now Revoke Real Estate Licenses for Discriminatory Practices,” The Real Deal (Aug. 3, 2020) and “Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation Giving State Authority to Revoke Real Estate Licenses Under Violations of Human Rights Law,” Governor.ny.gov (Aug. 3, 2020)

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