Fair Housing Act can trip up unwary co-op boards

Part 1 of 2

Grossman, 210 E. 36th St., and Thandrayen. (Source: The Real Deal)

It is up to the courts to decide whether a prospective buyer’s claim of discrimination is valid in a $1 million lawsuit.

But the case brought by an African whose application to a seven-member co-op board was rejected highlights the treacherous terrain of anti-discrimination laws.

According to the Real Deal last week, Goldwyn Thandrayen, a native of Mauritius, contended in a complaint amended two weeks ago that the board of 210 E. 36th St. in the Murray Hill neighborhood discriminated against him on the basis of national origin.

National origin is one of several classes of individuals protected by the Fair Housing Act, plus additional protection that various cities and states have provided.  (The only course that the state requires real estate agents to take  for continuing education is Fair Housing.)

Thandrayen maintains that he put down the entire $400,000 sale price of the apartment, as well as $30,000 as a guarantee and $15,000 for yearly maintenance fees before being rejected by the board last spring.

In the amendment, he quotes from an e-mail that one board member, Aileen Grossmann, allegedly wrote to another member:

I would not consider any foreign accounts in a co-op sale package, especially when there is virtually no money in U.S. dollars and their entire portfolio is in some tiny little unknown country. It’s not like it’s in British pounds or Euro either.

An investor in real estate and a refrigerator business, Thandrayen says further that the board strangely asked him to have his supporting documents translated from British into American English.

As some real estate brokers have learned the hard way, loose lips have a way of tripping them up.  Referring to “family” apartments, good schools, nearby churches, good neighborhoods and even walkable commutes can run afoul of anti-discrimination laws.

Rejection of a purchaser who perceives discrimination on the grounds of race has embroiled what is arguably Manhattan’s most famous co-op, the Dakota on the Upper West Side, into an ogoing lawsuit.

The mere whiff of discrimination can tarnish the reputation of a building and its board members for a long, long time.

Tomorrow: Part 2: The Dakota debacle

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201

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