Preventing Discrimination Based on Status as a Section 8 Recipient

Tapia v. Successful Management Corp., Index No. 400563/08 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co.)

Dreytser v. 195 Realty, LLC, Index No. 401140/08 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co.)

Nature of Claims: The plaintiffs in these consolidated cases, low-income tenants of rent stabilized apartments, seek a judgment declaring that their landlords are required to accept Section 8 vouchers to supplement their rental payments. The plaintiffs allege that the antidiscrimination clause of the J-51 Law, New York City Administrative Code §11-243(k), requires a landlord who receives benefits under the J-51 Law to accept a Section 8 voucher from a current tenant; and that Local Law 10, New York City Administrative Code §§ 8-101 et seq., which prohibits discrimination based on lawful source of income, require their landlords to accept a Section 8 voucher from current tenants.

Background. The plaintiffs include 47 tenants who wish to use their Section 8 vouchers for their current apartments, and whose landlords refused to accept their vouchers. The court considered the following issues: (1) whether the antidiscrimination clause of the J-51 Law, New York City Administrative Code §11-243(k), requires a landlord who receives benefits under the J-51 Law to accept a Section 8 voucher from a current tenant; (2) whether recent amendments to Local Law 10, New York City Administrative Code §§ 8-101 et seq., require a landlord to accept a Section 8 voucher from a current tenant; and (3) whether Local Law 10 preempted in whole or in part by federal and/or state law.

Current Status: On July 20, 2009, the Supreme Court held that both the J-51 Law and Local Law 10 apply to current tenants and prohibit landlords from refusing to accept Section 8 vouchers. Neither law, the court held, is preempted by federal law.

No. Persons Affected: Approximately one million apartments in New York City are rent stabilized. Approximately 500,000 tenants in stabilized apartments have incomes at or below $38,400, which is the Section 8 income limit for a household of four.

Reported Decisions: Tapia v. Successful Management Corp., 2009 WL 2163595 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co. July 20, 2009).

Timkovsky v. 56 Bennett LLC, Index No. 402911/07 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co.)

Nature of Claims: This action challenges the refusal of landlords who receive J-51 tax benefits to accept Section 8 vouchers from current tenants in violation of the J-51 law.

Background: The New York City Administrative Code (§ 11-243(k)) prohibits any housing owner who receives a “J-51” tax benefit from denying the housing “or any of the privileges or services incident to occupancy” because participation in or being eligible for Section 8. The plaintiffs in this case argue that this provision requires landlords who receive J-51 tax benefits to participate in the Section 8 program.

Current Status: The plaintiffs moved for summary judgment. The court requested additional briefing on the impact of Local Law 10 on the case. Local Law 10 prohibits discrimination based on source of income, including Section 8, and explicitly applies to “current tenants.” In February, 2009, the Supreme Court held that both the J-51 Law and Local Law 10 apply to current tenants and prohibit landlords from refusing to accept Section 8 vouchers. Neither law, the court held, is preempted by federal law.

Related Actions: Tapia v. Successful Management Corp., 2009 WL 2163595 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co. July 20, 2009) (involving J51 and Local Law 10); Dreytser v. 195 Realty, LLC (same citation).

No. Persons Affected: Approximately 12,000 Section 8 recipients are currently searching for housing. Many of them would be eligible to use their vouchers in place.

Reported decision: Timkovsky v. 56 Bennett, LLC, 23 Misc. 3d 997, 881 N.Y.S.2d 823 (Sup. NY 2009).