Under New York State Law, it is an unlawful discriminatory practice to refuse to sell or rent a housing accommodation to any person because of race, national origin or age. The law has generally been applied to people who sought to rent or buy a housing unit. But does the State law apply to sellers of a cooperative apartment when a cooperative board denies their sale to otherwise qualified purchasers (on a pretextual basis) because they are elderly? And, in this circumstance, do the sellers also have a claim under the Federal Fair Housing Act against the cooperative.
Our office represented a husband and wife who were denied the ability to sell. The lower court found that they could assert a claim of discrimination against the cooperative under New York State law but not under the Federal Law. In the Supreme Court and on appeal, the cooperative argued that neither law applied because only purchasers, and not sellers, were the protected party who had standing to assert the claim.
In a case of first impression, the Appellate Division, First Department found that our clients could assert claims of discrimination against the cooperative under both the State and Federal Law. In addition, the Court ruled that our clients could seek punitive damages against the cooperative under the state law to the extent permitted by the statute.
Jeffrey R. Metz and Courtney Killelea represented the sellers before the Appellate Division.