Legal Victory: Judge Rules Landlords Cannot Refuse LINC Rent Vouchers

New York City law explicitly prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of lawful source of income, including rental subsidies. But that hasn’t kept landlords from illegally turning away homeless families and individuals who are trying to move out of shelters using vouchers like the Living in Communities (LINC) programs.

Fortunately, unscrupulous landlords received a reminder of this law on July 7th, when a court ruled in Alston et al. v. Starrett City, Inc. et al. that the City’s Human Rights Law prohibits landlords from refusing to accept the LINC rent vouchers for homeless families. The lawsuit was filed last summer by The Legal Aid Society and Mayer Brown, LLP, after the defendants refused to rent apartments to two homeless New Yorkers when they learned that they would be using the LINC voucher to pay the rent. As part of the ruling, the judge ordered Spring Creek, the largest privately owned rental complex in New York City, to process the plaintiff’s application.

The court’s decision reaffirms that the City’s source of income discrimination law covers all forms of housing assistance. Since the City rolled out its LINC rental assistance programs in 2014, many homeless families and individuals have been frustrated by landlords who deny their applications even though the City is guaranteeing to pay rent. The City and State have both recently announced plans to double down on enforcement of this source of income discrimination. Rent subsidies are a powerful tool in moving people out of shelters and into the stability of a permanent home, but their success depends on landlord participation. This month’s court ruling will hopefully send a clear message to landlords that they are required to accept these vouchers and give homeless New Yorkers a path out of shelters.

If you believe that you have experienced this type of housing discrimination, please report it through one of these resources: