TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. –– CNY Fair Housing, in coordination with the Tompkins County Office of Human Rights, will be hosting a virtual “Fair Housing and Tenant Rights Update” on Thursday, Oct. 1 via Zoom to remind renters of what protections they have against eviction, discrimination and harassment.

The group will be holding two sessions — one at 10 a.m. and one at 5:30 p.m. — in hopes to increase accessibility. Both sessions will be covering the same content, so you only need to register for one session.

Sally Santangelo, CNY Fair Housing’s Executive Director, said the sessions will focus on educating renters about what the organization’s mission and capabilities are, and how they can help tenants navigate disputes with their landlords or discriminatory practices they may encounter while renting.

CNY Fair Housing is able to investigate complaints made by tenants, examining evidence of discrimination or violation of fair housing law and other kinds of verification work, even to the extent of sending in people undercover to recreate circumstances and determine violations by landlords, Santangelo said.

“If we think it’s an actionable legal case, we would provide assistance and legal representation through the whole process of filing a fair housing complaint,” Santangelo said, adding that the process is free of charge, regardless of whether charges are actually brought or the tenant’s income level.

The programs will also cover ways that tenants can handle landlord disputes in a more casual fashion, including education on protected status (race, gender, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and source of income) and how to determine if they could be being treated differently based on one of those factors.

During the pandemic, Santangelo said that there hasn’t been a significant rise in complaints, though that is partially explained by the fact that many people aren’t changing residences because of the ongoing coronavirus. Complaints regarding tenants fearful they will be evicted because they can’t pay their rent due to job loss or the economic downturn have been the majority of calls to CNY Fair Housing over the last several months, she said.

Much of their work surrounds source of income discrimination, meaning landlords won’t rent their units to people who present a certain type of income stream, often seen surrounding housing vouchers used by low-income populations. Source of income protections were codified in New York State in April 2019.

To register for the 10 a.m. session, please click here: https://bit.ly/CNYFH10A

To register for the 5:30 p.m. session, please click here: https://bit.ly/CNYFH530P

If you and your team are unable to attend on Oct. 1 but would like us to host a training session with you, please fill out our Training Request form: https://bit.ly/CNYFHRequest

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com