Housing Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against Major Real Estate Firms

Notable firms like Corcoran and Century 21 are accused of illegally discriminating against low-income tenants with housing vouchers. CBS2's Hazel Sanchez reports.

Video Transcript

DANA TYLER: A federal lawsuit has been filed against some of the biggest names in real estate. Notable firms like Corcoran and Century 21 are accused of illegally discriminating against some low-income tenants with housing vouchers. CBS2's Hazel Sanchez has details.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: For years, Nancy Padilla struggled to escape the shelter system because she says landlords and brokers discriminated against her for applying for an apartment with a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher.

NANCY PADILLA: Even though I was qualified and passed the background check and the credit check, and after paying so much apartment application fees, once they saw the voucher, it was a stop sign. No go further.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: And Padilla is far from alone. A one-year undercover investigation by the Housing Rights Initiative, or HRI, found 88 landlords and brokers-- including notable firms like Compass Inc, Corcoran Group, and Century 21-- refused to rent apartments to New Yorkers using rental assistance vouchers.

HRI undercover investigators recorded hundreds of phone calls presenting themselves as prospective tenants with Section 8 vouchers.

- So, it's-- it's pretty nice. The only thing is the landlord is picky as hell.

- [LAUGHS]

I wanted to ask to. I have a voucher? A Section 8

- No, not a hope in hell.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: HRI found in nearly 50% of cases, real estate professionals illegally refused to rent to voucher holders.

AARON CARR: For context, 82% of New Yorkers with Housing Choice vouchers are Black and Hispanic. So when you discriminate against tenants with rental assistance, you discriminate against tenants of color.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: The Legal Aid Society and HRI's attorneys filed suit against those firms, calling on them to comply with the Fair Housing Act and human rights laws, and make apartments available to voucher holders.

NANCY PADILLA: I hope this lawsuit can stop anyone else from having to experience what I experienced.

HAZEL SANCHEZ: We reached out to several of the real estate companies named in the lawsuit. No one responded to our request for comment.

On the Upper West Side, Hazel Sanchez, CBS 2 News.