LGBTQ+ New Yorkers: How to confront housing harassment, find a roomie & more

By Austin Havens-Bowen  |
June 14, 2021 - 12:30PM

The New York Human Rights Law protects the LGBTQ+ community from being discriminated against by any real estate professionals.

Victoria Pickering/Flickr

Happy Pride Month! Celebrations for the LGBTQ+ community are happening across New York City and if finding a new apartment is also on your to-do list this month, you might want help navigating the city’s complicated rental market.

Of course the process of renting an apartment is the same for anyone—regardless of sexual orientation or identity—but even in a city as diverse as NYC, it’s important to know your rights as a LGBTQ+ renter before signing an apartment lease to avoid discrimination from a broker or landlord.

In addition, if you’re searching for a roommate, you will probably want to find someone who is an ally or is part of the community. 

The good news is that blatant discrimination from brokers or landlords based on sexual orientation doesn’t happen often in NYC, says Michael Romer, managing partner at law firm Romer Debbas. And if you are treated unfairly by a landlord or other building staff, New York has more protections than most other states, he says.

That’s because the New York State Human Rights Law protects you from being discriminated against by anyone in the real estate industry—including agents, brokers, landlords, supers, and even doormen—based on sexual orientation or identity. The law helps fill in gaps left by the Fair Housing Act, which doesn’t include sexual orientation as a protected class, Romer says.

New York City has even more protections for the community: The New York City Human Rights Law protects you from being discriminated against when it comes to housing, in addition to employment and other situations, according to the New York City Commission on Human Rights, which helps enforce the city’s Human Rights Law. And if you experience discrimination, you can submit a complaint online. 

Keep reading for more of Brick’s advice on navigating the city’s rental market as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Find an accepting roomie 

For most New Yorkers, living with a roommate is a rite of passage, because let’s face it, renting an apartment is expensive here. But living with someone, especially a stranger, is an intimate experience, which is why it’s important to live with someone who is accepting. 

There are sites specifically for the LGBTQ+ community like Rainbow Roommates, the oldest roommate search service for the community in NYC. For more websites to find a roommate read "The 11 best sites for finding a roommate in NYC'' and for the questions to ask to help decide if you’ve found the right match, check out  "The 21 best questions to ask potential roommates to get the perfect match."

Get housing support or assistance 

In New York City, there are several organizations that help LGBTQ+ New Yorkers facing homelessness or potential eviction. Covenant House provides shelter and housing assistance to LGBTQ+ youth and SAGE helps seniors in the community secure housing. 

You should also know that all of the city’s housing assistance programs and shelters are open to all residents despite sexual orientation. For more housing resources read "Here are 8 LGBTQ-friendly programs in NYC if you need to find housing, temporary shelter, or roommates." 

Deal with harassment

Unlike dealing with harassment from a landlord or broker, harassment from a neighbor isn’t covered by the Human Rights Law. So if you are being harassed because of your sexual orientation, your first step is to file a complaint with your landlord, who is responsible for mitigating the situation. And if that doesn’t work, you would file a civil dispute. 

For more help read "Is your neighbor harassing you? 4 steps to handle the problem." And to see how one gay New Yorker handled homophobic harassment, check out "My downstairs neighbor harasses me for being gay—and my building just renewed his lease" (The good news is the neighbor moved out shortly after this story was published.) 

Get to know historic neighborhoods

New York City was integral in the fight for equality for LGBTQ+ people across the country. Historic events like the Stonewall Riots helped pave the way for younger generations of the community—and it all happened in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. The city also puts on one of the biggest annual Pride Month celebrations in the world. To learn more about the city’s historic LGBTQ+ neighborhoods, check out "NYC pride: Tracing the history of New York's LGBTQ neighborhoods from past to present."



Austin Havens-Bowen

Staff Writer

Staff writer Austin Havens-Bowen covers the rental market and answers renters' questions in a column called Realty Bites. He previously reported on local news for the Queens Ledger and The Hunts Point Express in the Bronx. He graduated from Hunter College with a BA in media studies. He rents a one-bedroom apartment in Astoria with his boyfriend and their two cats.

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