Housing Discrimination: Who’s Protected? Protected Groups That Buildings Need to Know


Third in an ongoing series on housing discrimination. Read parts one and two.

In this series, The Cooperator has examined discrimination laws in relation to multifamily buildings. Among the issues we’ve covered included people with physical and mental disabilities. A disability is just part of the general housing protections that people in New York have under the federal Fair Housing Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law. Most of them are obvious, and others may be less familiar. Regardless, It’s to the advantage of a building to know what constitutes a legally protected class in order to avoid both discrimination and the legal entanglements that follow when it's committed.

What Are the Protected Classes?

The list of protected classes includes the following:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Color
  • Creed or religion
  • National origin
  • Gender
  • Source of Income (using government-provided assistance to pay housing costs, for example)
  • Occupation
  • Immigration status
  • Presence of children
  • Status as a victim of domestic abuse, sexual violence, or stalking
  • Gender Identity
  • Disability
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital or partnership status

According to Deborah B. Koplovitz, an attorney specializing in housing discrimination law with Manhattan-based law firm Anderson Kill P.C., the most recent addition to the list is 'status as a victim of domestic abuse, sexual violence or stalking,' which was added on July 26, 2016.  

“This category protects a current spouse, a person with whom another has a child, a person who has lived or is living with another, anyone with whom the victim has had a romantic relationship in the past and even a roommate,” Koplovitz says.  


Related Articles

Disabled Access Issues

Housing Discrimination Law and Your Co-op

Housing Discrimination: What Does the Future Hold and How Can Boards Be Prepared

Things Your Building Should Know to Avoid Big and Costly Mistakes

What You Should Know About Housing Discrimination

A Recent Seminar Highlights the Issue’s Complexities

Accommodating the Mentally Disabled Who Have Service Animals

How Can a Building Avoid Potential Discrimination?

HUD Releases New 'Guidance' on Housing Discrimination

How the Definition of Discrimination Could Be Changing

When Co-op Board Interviews Go Bad

Discrimination, Inappropriate Behavior, and Oddity



  • In my co-op one Share holder, Share holder Cher, told me in 2012, in a dirty rat kind of accent and in poor English "I get you Russian speaking only. No Puerto Ricans or Costa Ricans," as to impress me, which I was not. I later e-mailed him that I was Hispanic. Then after some days he had his daughter reply for him saying "There was some misunderstanding" Since then he's had only Russian speaking sub-tenants, on his 5th so far, no Puerto Ricans or Costa Ricans. This discrimination is slipping through our cracks. I wonder if it could ever be penalized. Inquiring minds want to know.