Unlock NYC

Tools for a fair housing search


Do landlords keep saying "no" to your voucher? Use our tools to record it and report it – right from your phone.

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  • Woman with red hair and glasses, looking off to the left

    "They said my income and credit score were too low."

    Ever been denied an apartment because your credit score isn't high enough? If your voucher covers 100% of your rent, landlords shouldn't be using your credit score against you. You can report that!

    Does this experience sound familiar? Learn how to spot, record, and report discrimination.

  • Woman on a laptop computer

    "I was flat-out told, 'we don't take vouchers here.'"

    The vast majority of apartments in New York City are covered by either the NYC or the NYS Human Rights Law. These laws prohibit landlords from turning down prospective tenants simply because they have a voucher.

    If you hear the phrase "no vouchers," you can report that! You can take action every time a landlord denies you an apartment.

  • Man in a wheelchair and glasses, facing to the left

    "You don't meet the minimum income requirements."

    As long as you are looking for housing within your voucher price point, income requirements shouldn't apply to you. If you're told "you need to make 40x the rent" or "vouchers don't count as income," report it!

    Has a broker recently used income requirements to deny you an apartment? You can report it using our tools!

  • Woman with blue hair and glasses, reading from a book

    "They said the unit was no longer available."

    Brokers often pretend that a unit is off the market if they don't want to rent to you. Or, they'll show you a different unit in significantly worse conditions, or in a different neighborhood. This practice, called "steering," is illegal, and you can report that!

    Has this happened to you recently? That's not right - take action and report it now!

  • Person in backwards cap, looking at smartphone

    "They said the landlord only takes Section 8, not CityFHEPS."

    Landlords can't pick and choose which vouchers or programs they accept. If they own more than 6 units, by New York City law, a landlord must accept all rental assistance programs. If a landlord tries to turn you down because of your voucher, you can report that!

    Your voucher is a valid source of income. Learn more about how the NYC Human Rights Law protects you as a voucher holder.

  • Woman carrying a purse, with her child looking up at her

    "Only professionals live here. You must be working."

    As long as your voucher amount covers the rent for the apartment you're interested in, a landlord can't require proof of employment. If a landlord only allows "professionals" in their building, you can report that!

    Are you looking to rent a place with a voucher? Learn how to identify and take action against discrimination.

  • Woman sitting and looking at her smartphone

    "The broker stopped responding after I mentioned my voucher."

    Ghosting is a common discriminatory tactic that can be hard to recognize. If a broker stops responding to your texts, calls, or e-mails after you mention your voucher, or gives you the runaround, you can report that!

    If you've been ghosted by a broker, know that you're not alone. Learn how to catch and report ghosting.

  • Woman wearing glasses, looking up and thinking

    "He said he'd check with the landlord and call me back. He never did."

    Brokers often pretend they need to check whether the landlord accepts vouchers to get you off the phone, and then never call you back. If you experience this kind of behavior, you can report that!

    Housing discrimination is often hiding in plain sight. Learn the sneaky phrases brokers often use to discriminate.

  • Woman with glasses sitting on the ground, looking up

    "The broker said I needed to pay extra because of my voucher."

    Brokers can't ask you for extra money on the side. It's unprofessional – and illegal. If someone demands a bribe to view or hold an apartment, or proposes that you pay extra rent under the table, you can report that!

    Has a broker ever tried to extort you for more money? Report it!

It should be easier to find a home with your voucher.

If you’ve been having a hard time finding a home with a voucher in New York City, it’s not your fault. Vouchers are supposed to help tenants find a home in cities with limited affordable housing options. The vast majority of landlords in NYC are required by law to accept vouchers. And yet, landlords and brokers are turning down New Yorkers like you, every day.

You deserve to be treated fairly during your search for housing, no matter your situation. Whether you’ve been living in a family shelter, staying with friends or relatives, or you’re looking to move from your current place, you have the right to a fair housing search. We’re making it easier by offering free and friendly tools you can use to record and report discrimination.

Keep Hearing "We Don't Take Vouchers?"
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Questions

What does Unlock NYC do?

Unlock NYC works with voucher holders and advocates to build tools that make it easier to identify, document, and report “source of income” discrimination on your housing search. If you live in New York City and you have a voucher (such as CityFHEPS, Section 8, FHEPS, or HASA), you can use our website to tell us about unfair treatment by a broker, management company, or landlord. We can add your report to our advocacy database, and we can also connect you to an organization or government agency who can tell you about your rights and your options to address that specific incident.

We also know that the housing search with a voucher can often be frustrating, discouraging, and lonely, so we offer workshops, 1-on-1 peer support calls, and other resources where you can build community and exchange experiences and tips with other voucher holders.

Why should I report?

There are many reasons you might want to report unfair treatment on your housing search, and justice looks different to everyone. For example, some people are interested in learning about their options and whether they can file a formal complaint. Other people want a chance at applying to an apartment they were turned down from. And others share their story so that the broker or landlord gets on the radar of organizations working in housing justice.

No matter what your reasons are, when you use your voice to report where discrimination is happening, who’s doing it, and what it sounds like, you’re helping paint a clearer picture of discrimination – so that together we can better push back against it! With your help, we can hold landlords and brokers accountable and also advocate for policies that make vouchers work.

What does Unlock NYC do with my report?

Unlock NYC will add anonymized details about the incident you share with us to our crowdsourced database of where voucher holders are experiencing unfair treatment, who’s doing it, and what tactics they’re using. We work with advocacy partners like the VALUE in Housing Campaign to shine a light on how voucher discrimination is impacting New Yorkers and what needs to change (for an example, check out our recent report here)

If you want individual help with your specific situation, you can also request that we send a copy of your report to organizations who provide counseling on your rights and may be able to connect you to legal services if needed. In 2021, we connected our users to the NYC Commission on Human Rights when they requested it. In 2022, we are working on adding more options to our tool.

You also don’t have to use Unlock NYC to report! If you prefer, you can report directly to agencies and organizations such as the NYC Commission on Human Rights, the HRA/DSS Source of Income Unit, the Fair Housing Justice Center, the New York State Division of Human Rights, or the New York State Attorney General's Office.

Do you have a list of apartments I can apply for?

No, we’re not brokers! But, we do offer tools, tips, and solidarity to support you throughout the apartment search process. Many of our team members and volunteers have been through the housing search process with a voucher in NYC, and can speak about what worked for them. Everyone’s situation is different, and we speak from our own experiences in the spirit of community-building and mutual aid.

How do you keep my reports and information secure?

We are an independent group that is not affiliated with any real estate management company, landlord, brokering agency, housing authority, or shelter services. You can choose to report anonymously, and we will never share your personal information without your permission. We encourage you to read our Privacy Policy and let us know if you have any questions.

I need to talk to an attorney. Can you help?

Our team does not have any lawyers on staff and we cannot provide legal advice or representation. However, if you ask us to, we can connect you with an organization who can talk to you about your rights and options under the law and may be able to connect you with legal services. The Met Council on Housing also has a guide to finding a lawyer for housing-related issues here, which you may find helpful.

What other resources exist for voucher holders in NYC?

Unlock NYC is working on just one specific piece of a big challenge: ensuring that every New Yorker with a voucher has a fair, efficient, and respectful housing search. There are organizations all over the city who have been doing amazing work to support voucher holders for much longer than we have, and we want to make sure you know about them! We are building an online learning center for voucher holders that will launch in 2022, but in the meantime we made this list of resources you might find helpful.

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