Know Your Rights: Fair Housing Laws


On Thursday, April 26, 2018, Erie County passed the County of Erie Fair Housing Law. This legislation is consistent with federal and state fair housing laws while also banning discrimination throughout Erie County on the basis of one’s gender identity, immigration and citizenship status, and lawful source of income.

Source of income discrimination, in particular, is pervasive throughout Erie County and perpetuates much of the widespread residential segregation found throughout Western New York.  With this landmark legislation, housing providers will no longer be allowed to deny prospective tenants access to safe and affordable housing merely because they receive rental assistance, disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income, veteran’s benefits, or other government subsidies and lawful non-wage income.

For more information, check out this Buffalo News article. You can also find the law here.


New York State Human Rights Law

State law contains the same protections as federal law, but also includes age, creed, sexual orientation, marital status, military status, gender identity and expression, and source of income. The state defines source of income this way:

The term "lawful source of income" shall include, but not be limited to, child support, alimony, foster care subsidies, income derived from social security, or any form of federal, state, or local public assistance or housing assistance including, but not limited to, section 8 vouchers, or any other form of housing assistance payment or credit whether or not such income or credit is paid or attributed directly to a landlord, and any other forms of lawful income.  The provisions of this subdivision shall not be construed to prohibit the use of criteria or qualifications of eligibility for the sale, rental, leasing or occupancy of publicly-assisted housing accommodations where such criteria or qualifications are required to comply with federal or state law, or are necessary to obtain the benefits of a federal or state program. A publicly assisted housing accommodation may include eligibility criteria in statements, advertisements, publications or applications, and may make inquiry or request information to the extent necessary to determine eligibility.

In June of 2019, New York passed the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act, which extended tenant protections in several areas, especially eviction proceedings and security deposits. See the full text of the law or a good summary by Partnership for the Public Good.

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Federal Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968 as part of the Civil Rights Act. It bans discrimination in housing based on 7 protected classes: race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or disability. The full text of the law can be found here.

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Local Laws: Buffalo, Hamburg, and West Seneca

The City of Buffalo passed its fair housing act in 2006, which bans discrimination based on marital status, military status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and source of income in addition to the federally protected classes. Hamburg and West Seneca also have laws banning source of income discrimination.