New York Attorney General Letitia James (“AG”) continued her efforts to protect New York tenants by cracking down on “tenant blacklisting,” which is when landlords use housing court records as a basis to deny a potential tenant’s rental application. Tenant blacklisting was made illegal in 2019 following changes to the NY Real Property Law, which outlawed efforts to deny housing to renters with a history of landlord-tenant court cases. As a part of her efforts to eliminate tenant blacklisting in New York, AG took action against, and secured a settlement with, Clipper Equity, LLC (Clipper Equity), a New York City real estate company that denied applicants with past housing court records and violated city and state Human Rights Laws by requiring applicants to disclose their marital status..
The enactment of the 2019 New York Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act (HSTPA) made it illegal for landlords to deny a rental application based on the applicant’s housing court records. If there is documented evidence that a landlord obtained an applicant’s housing court records and subsequently denied the application, the law presumes the landlord or property owner made the decision to deny based on the applicant’s court records. The burden is on the landlord to prove the applicant was denied for other reasons. To remain in compliance with the law, AG recommends landlords refrain from requesting a potential tenant’s court records and rental histories altogether and cease relationships with tenant screening bureaus who continue to provide court records.
In its investigation of Clipper Equity, AG determined the company had improperly obtained housing court records for 25 potential tenants and then denied housing to seven of those same applicants. The AG found that Clipper thus violated the law. As part of the agreement, Clipper Equity will take the necessary steps to comply with the laws it broke and has committed to ending its discriminatory screening policies. Clipper Equity was also required to produce evidence proving its compliance to AG. AG reserves the right to take further enforcement action if Clipper Equity violates the agreement.