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Discrimination can cost NY realtors, brokers their license

Recently we discussed ways that real estate professionals can avoid housing discrimination lawsuits. Now, in the state of New York, the stakes are even higher for real estate agents and brokers who violate laws against housing discrimination.

Early this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law that allows the state to revoke real estate licenses. The new law follows a report late last year in Newsday. The report was based on a three-year investigation using "undercover testers" to pose as home buyers. It discovered "evidence of widespread separate and unequal treatment of minority potential homebuyers and minority communities on Long Island."

It also reported that some of Long Island's leading real estate brokers "frequently directed white customers toward areas with the highest white representations and minority buyers to more integrated neighborhoods…[and] avoided business in communities with overwhelmingly minority populations."

According to the Newsday report, Black testers posing as home buyers were the most likely to face unequal treatment (49% of the time), followed by those who were Hispanic (39% of the time) and then Asians (19%).

Gov. Cuomo, in signing the law, said, "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."

The head of the Real Estate Board of New York applauded the new law as an important step toward equal access to housing as well as commercial real estate. Some real estate brokers, however, have claimed that the findings are unscientific. Nonetheless, the state is investigating at least 67 real estate agents and firms cited in the Newsday report.

Whether you're a real estate professional, a home buyer or you're selling your home, it's essential to understand that both the federal and state governments take housing and other types of real estate discrimination very seriously.

If you have problems with a real estate transaction, find an experienced advocate who can protect your rights and your interests.

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