More Fair Housing Education Needed…Desperately!

After selling Manhattan real estate for 16 years, there is very little that shocks me.  But in this day and age and in a city that is supposedly one of the most progressive in the world, Fair Housing violations continue to baffle me.  Check this out…

We are in the process of selling a property as a pied a terre to a very affluent woman for whom this purchase is as insignificant as buying a pair of shoes.  That’s funny…do women ever make an "insignificant" shoe purchase?  So perhaps that is a bad analogy but you get my drift I hope.  She lives out of state and she and her life-partner will use the apartment when visiting Manhattan instead of dropping a fortune on a hotel.  Yes, I said life-partner, so what?  I will tell you so what…

After a request last week to provide reference letters for the partner (not that unusual except that this is a condo and the partner isn’t on the contract), we received a call yesterday from the managing agent of the building requesting a copy of the couple’s marriage certificate.  WHAAAAAAAT?!?  Does this not wreak of discrimination?  In 16 years, I have never once been asked by a Board, either co-op or condo, for a couple’s marriage certificate.  In fact, i have sold many properties to engaged and married couples (opposite and same sex marriages) where only one person was listed as the buyer and no one asked for a marriage certificate.  Why?  Because it is absolutely illegal!

In this particular instance, the seller, after speaking with her attorney, immediately called management for further elucidation of this request and learned that it wasn’t the Board at all but an agent working for the management company who made this request.  Fortunately the request was rescinded and the agent reprimanded but this could have opened a very big can of worms for this building and it’s owners. 

As I stated above, I have never heard of this before so it is very much a case of man bites dog.  That said, it is evidence that there has not been enough emphasis put on educating certain members of the real estate community about Fair Housing Laws.  Perhaps co-op and condo boards should consider mandatory fair Housing law education for their management staff and Board members.  Otherwise, they may end up with a very large red line item on there balance sheet that represents a lien or loss of a law suit.  Something that is so easily prevented.

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