Pregnant women need not apply.
May 7, 2007 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Can a landlord refuse to rent an apartment to someone because they're pregnant?

My wife is pregnant, and we're looking for a larger apartment for the baby. I found a great place in our neighborhood, we were the first to see it, and the first to submit an application. There were no problems with the application: I have great credit, a good paying job, and several recommendations. The owner said he really liked us. Then he gave the apartment to someone else because the people who would be living below us said they didn't want to get woken up by a crying baby. Those were his exact words.

I'm pretty sure this is illegal, but I'm not sure what to do next. Does anyone know what to do in a case like this? This is in Brooklyn, if that matters.
posted by Gamblor to Law & Government (15 answers total)
I should add that even though the landlord discriminated against us, he doesn't live on the premises, it's a great place, and I'd still like the apartment.
posted by Gamblor at 9:06 AM on May 7, 2007

This is outside what you're specifically asking for, but before you get yourself in a fight for the apartment, please read all of these posts, and then decide if you really want to live somewhere where you neighbour hates you and you haven't even moved in yet.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:08 AM on May 7, 2007

The landlord probably didn't realize he couldn't deny us the place because my wife was pregnant, and the other tenants just said they'd prefer the non-pregnant couple. I don't think anyone was being intentionally malicious. And it's hard enough to find a decent, affordable apartment in this city that yes, I am willing to fight over it.
posted by Gamblor at 9:14 AM on May 7, 2007

The [New York] City Human Rights Law protects residents of most types of housing in New York City against discrimination. If you reside in an apartment building or multiple family dwelling, co-op, condominium, government-assisted housing, or residential hotel, you are covered under the Law. The Law does not extend to residents of two-family houses if the owner or a member of the owner’s family resides in one of the housing accommodations and the available housing accommodation was not advertised. In addition, you are not covered by the Law if you rent a room or rooms in non-government assisted housing where the owner resides.

It is unlawful for landlords, superintendents, building managers, condominium owners, cooperative owners and boards to discriminate in the sale, rental or lease of a housing accommodation or in the provision of services and facilities because of a person’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, gender (including gender identity), disability, sexual orientation, creed, marital status, partnership status, alienage or citizenship status, age, lawful occupation, or because children are or may be residing with the person. [emphasis added].

If you believe you have been the victim of discrimination in the City of New York, you may file a complaint with the Law Enforcement Bureau of the City’s Commission on Human Rights, located at 40 Rector Street, 9th Floor, in lower Manhattan or any of our Community Service Centers. The Law requires that the complaint be filed within one year of the last alleged act of discrimination.

You must make an appointment for an Intake interview. Complaints will not be taken at the office without an appointment. To schedule an appointment, please call (212) 306-7450. If you are unable to travel to the Commission’s offices, we will make alternative arrangements.

When you visit the Commission on Human Rights, you will meet with a Human Rights Specialist or a staff attorney. To expedite the interview process, please bring all relevant information covered in the complaint with you such as names, addresses and phone numbers of the people or organizations you are charging and the exact dates of the events.
posted by ND¢ at 9:17 AM on May 7, 2007

Illegal since 1986
posted by chundo at 9:17 AM on May 7, 2007

Franklin the fair-housing fox says discrimantion [against] pregnant women is "familial status discrimination", and gives you a phone number to call, and a link to file a complaint.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:27 AM on May 7, 2007

You can also contact the National Fair Housing Alliance. Check their site for contact info, and for links to member organizations that may be closer to you.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:36 AM on May 7, 2007

My landlord (in California) once told me that if she kept a certain number of her units available to people with kids she was in the clear. In her case she rented the downstairs units to families and the upstairs units to people without babies or very young kids.

I don't know how legal it was, but she seemed to think she was in the clear. Also, I think she knew she'd lose her downstairs tenants if she did it any other way.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:07 AM on May 7, 2007

You can contact HUD. There are federal laws against this, and it looks like there are laws against it in NYC also. There might be a state law against this sort of discrimination too, but I don't know much about NY state. You can probably report this to more than one agency, depending on how mad about it you are.
posted by yohko at 11:20 AM on May 7, 2007

Your Fair Housing civil rights have been violated. Take it to HUD (Housing and Urban Development).
posted by lootie777 at 11:21 AM on May 7, 2007

If he is unaware, can you just show him the applicable law? I'm guessing he doesn't want to get a complaint filed against him, or possibly fined/sued, any more than you want to go through that process right now.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:27 AM on May 7, 2007

Yeah, it's absolutely illegal. But, rather than making an enemy by going in full guns firing, I might contact him and say something like "Look, Ralph...I really like the place. And I understand that the neighbors may not like children. But, did you know that you can't discriminate based on pregnancy, and neither can they? What can we do to make this work so that none of us have to get the government and lawyers involved?"
posted by dejah420 at 8:02 PM on May 7, 2007

A) Yes, it's absolutely illegal. B) It's a tough situation. I too have been (several times) through the ringer of nyc apartment searching on a budget, so I know walking away is not a simple option. But after some thought I'm going to second jacquilynne's reaction. NYC is tenant-friendly ONLY on paper -- landlords have little power on paper but much power in practical terms. If his other tenants are angry at you, complain about the noise and want you out, he will get you out in some way. If you take him to court even if you are in the right (and are legally found to be in the right), there is, as you may know, a very real and widespread blacklisting problem in our city. Ever going to housing court, for any reason, will make future apt-hunting much more difficult. It stinks and it's unethical, but that's the way it is.

So all in all, I would advise against forcing a landlord to let you live in a place when the other tenants (obviously good tenants he wants to keep) will think that is a contradiction of what they expressed and be angry about it. You'll have enough on your plate, with a new baby, that a *guaranteed* conflict with the neighbors sounds like it may be worth avoiding.
posted by sparrows at 1:31 AM on May 8, 2007

This is completely illegal. It is a clear violation of federal and NYS fair housing laws, which prevent housing discrimination based on familial status.

YOU HAVE A MORAL RESPONSIBILITY TO TAKE ACTION. If the educated and affluent in the city allow this to pass, then the poor and disenfranchised in the city suffer double. Your family might be in a position to move on without too much trouble, but not every family in the city can do that. This is a human rights issue.

I would not move in to the apartment - I would take the necessary steps to report the discrimination immediately, then move on. The NYS department of human rights has a web-site advising what steps you should take. (Scroll to the bottom of the page, "can i protect my rights")

I would also write out, as carefully as possible, your entire experience, while it is still fresh in your mind.
posted by Flood at 1:12 PM on May 13, 2007

We met with HUD and the New York State Commission on Human Rights. We were told that since someone else signed a lease, there's zero chance of getting the apartment, but we've filed a complaint with HUD and they're investigating. They'll likely make an attempt at mediation and possibly levy some fines. Even if we never see a dime, we're not letting this guy violate our rights without a fight.
posted by Gamblor at 8:59 AM on May 15, 2007

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