Some new rules for landlords, realtors

03/07/2015 12:00 PM |
Long Island Board of Realtors president-elect Mary Alice Ruppert speaks at last week's meeting. (Credit: Rachel Young)

Long Island Board of Realtors president-elect Mary Alice Ruppert speaks at last week’s meeting. (Credit: Rachel Young)

Short-term rental regulations may have been the main topic at last week’s panel discussion at Greenport’s Townsend Manor Inn, but many realtors in attendance had questions about another issue: a new Suffolk County anti-discrimination law that prohibits them from asking prospective tenants about their finances.

Passed in January by the county Legislature, the law amends Chapter 526 of the Suffolk County code to “incorporate changes adopted by the state,” according to a copy of the legislation. 

Under the new law, realtors and landlords aren’t allowed to ask potential lessees how much money they make or where their money comes from. The regulation was enacted in Nassau and Queens counties “years ago,” said Long Island Board of Realtors president-elect Mary Alice Ruppert.

“It’s just part of what we have to do today,” Ms. Ruppert said. “I believe in the law. It probably makes doing our job a little more difficult and challenging but it has to be.”

During the panel discussion, Ms. Ruppert advised realtors to simply ask prospective tenants if they have “adequate resources” to afford their rent. They’re allowed to ask permission to run a credit check but can’t ask for pay stubs or an employer’s letter of reference — unless the potential renter volunteers that information, she said.

“If they’re willing to share with you their source of income, then you can just follow up and say, ‘Great, can I have a letter of reference?’ ” Ms. Ruppert said.

In an interview following the discussion, Ms. Ruppert said realtors must retrain themselves to “act appropriately, respond appropriately and advise our landlords and investors appropriately.”

“It will all be fine,” she said.

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