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State can now revoke real estate licenses under human rights law

Rose Weldon
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed into law a bill granting the State Department the authority to revoke realtors of their licenses for human rights reasons. (Photo courtesy of the governor's office)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation explicitly granting the Department of State the authority to discipline real estate professionals found to have violated provisions of the state Human Rights Law by revoking or suspending their licenses.

Cuomo had directed the state’s 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.

His action followed a report in Newsday on November 17, 2019, on the results of an undercover investigation into housing discrimination on Long Island, which included evidence suggesting real estate agents engaged in discriminatory conduct, including imposing unequal conditions and steering clients toward certain neighborhoods depending on their perceived race or ethnicity.

The bill, passed Monday, strengthens the abilities of the secretary of state to discipline licensed professionals for discriminatory behavior and complements the department’s existing regulations, which authorize the secretary of state 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.”

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.

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport), whose district includes Glen Cove, thanked Cuomo  in a statement for his “swift signing of this bill into law.”

“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,” Gaughran said. 

The governor also announced several additional initiatives to combat housing discrimination across the state, which included launching a comprehensive social media campaign and housing discrimination hotline to raise awareness.

Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Babylon) said in a statement that she was “looking forward to work on this critical issue.”

“Homeownership is the cornerstone of the American Dream, yet in this day and age, housing discrimination still persists in our Long Island neighborhoods and across New York,” Jean-Pierre said. “This legislation will help ensure that we are protecting every New Yorker’s freedom to choose where they want to call home and build a future for themselves, regardless of the color of their skin.  

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