Press Release: Lawmakers Pass Legislation to Protect Tenants with Disabilities

August 20, 2020

Disability Justice, Legislative, News, Press Release

For rent sign outside apartments

As part of NYLPI’s housing advocacy for individuals with disabilities, NYLPI proposed legislation to State Senator Brian A. Benjamin and Assembly Member Daniel J. O’Donnell, who introduced and recently ensured the passage of S6220A and A08149A. This legislation supports the rights of people with disabilities across the state to be free from disability-based discrimination in publicly- assisted housing by mandating that all leases contain a provision informing tenants with disabilities of their right to request a “reasonable accommodation “in their individual apartments and in building common areas. Examples of reasonable accommodations include installing grab bars in a bathroom and/or installing ramps at the building entrance for tenant(s) with mobility impairments. The legislation will also serve as a reminder to landlords of their obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to tenants with disabilities who request them.

Senator Benjamin and Assembly Member O’Donnell thanked NYLPI in a press release for “fighting for the passage of this bill” and for NYLPI’s “leadership and tireless commitment on this vital issue.”

On July 21, 2020, the bill was presented to the governor, who has until the end of the year to determine whether to sign it.

For Immediate Release
August 3, 2020
Benjamin Contact: Neil Reilly | [email protected] // 774.766.2351
O’Donnell Contact: Gabriel Lewenstein | [email protected] // 212-866-3970
NYLPI Contact: Genevieve Friedman | [email protected] // 973-634-5337

Press Release: Lawmakers Pass Legislation to Protect Tenants with Disabilities

Newly passed legislation from State Senator Brian A. Benjamin and Assembly Member Daniel J. O’Donnell ensures that all landlords statewide provide notice to all tenants of the rights of persons with disabilities to “reasonable accommodations” in their tenancy

NEW YORK, NY – State Senator Brian Benjamin and Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell passed legislation to support the rights of persons with disabilities across the state to be free from disability-based discrimination in publicly-assisted housing.

There are well over two million individuals with disabilities in New York, and as both Congress and the State Legislature have noted on many occasions, these individuals continue to face rampant discrimination, notwithstanding federal, state, and local laws which protect them.

The purpose of the bill is to ensure that people with disabilities remain free of discrimination and are informed of their right to request “reasonable accommodations” and appropriate housing services when they sign a lease in New York State. The law leaves the manner for providing notice of such rights to the New York State Division of Human Rights, but makes clear that landlords must provide the notice within 30 days of the beginning of new tenancies, and within 30 days from the effective date of the law, for current tenants. The law also mandates that notice be “conspicuously posted” on every vacant housing accommodation that is available for rent.

In addition to ensuring that all tenants with disabilities are aware of their rights, the law serves to make all landlords aware of their obligations not to discriminate, including providing reasonable accommodations to rules, and reasonable modifications to apartments and buildings, to ensure the quiet enjoyment of housing by all persons with disabilities.

Examples of reasonable accommodations include widening doorways, installing grab bars in bathrooms, and modifying no-pet rules to allow tenants with disabilities to have service animals. In New York City, local law not only requires landlords to allow tenants to make reasonable accommodations to their tenancy, but to pay for the accommodations as well.

The right to be free from discrimination in housing on the basis of disability is guaranteed by the federal Fair Housing Act, as well as New York State’s Human Rights Law and New York City’s Human Rights Law.

The legislation passed the New York State Senate (S8119-A) and the New York State Assembly (A10303-A) on July 21, 2020.

State Senator Brian A. Benjamin (D – Manhattan) said: “Thirty years after the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, its promise of removing barriers for the disabled is still not delivered where it is needed. Often, renters have no idea that they are eligible for reasonable accommodations when they rent. This bill is a small step in the direction of helping people recognize their rights that we recognized so long ago. I want to thank my partner in the Assembly, Assemblymember Danny O’Donnell, and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest for fighting for the passage of this bill.”

Assembly Member Daniel J. O’Donnell (D – Manhattan) said: “Disability rights are human rights. But rights mean nothing if you don’t know you have them. With the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act this year, it is critical that we redouble our efforts to ensure that all New Yorkers can live in inclusive and accessible housing. Unfortunately, there are far too many tenants living with disabilities, particularly in public housing, who do not live in accessible housing, and have never even been made aware that they are entitled to reasonable accommodations under local, state and federal law. This legislation is an important next step in raising awareness and improving accessibility in public housing, and I want to thank Senator Brian Benjamin, and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest for their leadership and tireless commitment on this vital issue.”

Ruth Lowenkron, Esq., Director of the Disability Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) said: “This law is critical to ensuring that persons with disabilities are not discriminated against in housing. Not only will landlords be reminded of their obligations, and tenants be advised of their rights, but tenants will feel empowered to request the reasonable accommodations to which they are entitled by federal, state, and local law.”

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