Wednesday 4th August 2021
Westchester County, New York, amended its Cooperative Disclosure Act as part of its ongoing efforts to combat and eliminate alleged discrimination in cooperative housing purchases.
Cooperative boards have considerable discretion in deciding which applicants to approve. Federal, state, and Westchester County fair housing laws do not allow applicants to be rejected on the basis of protected traits such as race, marital status, national origin, religion, disability, or gender. To promote transparency in the application and purchase process, local governments such as New York’s Westchester and Suffolk Counties have enacted laws to strengthen fair housing laws.
Previously, the law required cooperative boards to acknowledge receipt of an application from a potential buyer within 15 days and to approve or reject the application within 60 days.
The change imposes the following additional requirements on cooperative boards:
disclose to applicants the minimum financial limits required for approval;
Provide a written reason for rejecting the prospect’s application; and
Submit a written report to the Westchester County Human Rights Commission on a form provided by the commission listing the rejected applications.
Under the earlier provisions of the legislation, cooperative boards who violate the law could face civil penalties, including a fine of $ 1,000 for the first violation, $ 1,500 for the second violation, and $ 2,000 for the third and all subsequent violations.
As part of the change, individual claims can be asserted within one year. However, infringements reported by the Executive Director of the Commission can be reported up to one year after the Commission becomes aware of the infringement.
Cooperative boards should take steps to ensure they have strong policies and procedures in place that aim to tackle housing discrimination. This may include formal application processes, fair accommodation, anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training for board members, and internal complaints procedures to review unsuccessful applications.
© 2021National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 216
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