Elliman, RE/MAX, Keller Williams subpoenaed in discrimination probe

Senate acts on Newsday investigation of unequal treatment of minority homebuyers

The New York State Senate subpoenaed several top names in real estate
The New York State Senate subpoenaed several top names in real estate

Major brokerages have been summoned to a State Senate hearing on unequal treatment of minority homebuyers in Long Island.

Douglas Elliman, RE/MAX, Coldwell Banker, Keller Williams, Charles Rutenberg Realty and Realty Connect USA were all sent subpoenas, state officials told Newsday.

The hearing, scheduled for April 17, is part of a Senate probe examining housing discrimination.

The probe was launched after a three-year Newsday investigation found real estate agents sometimes steered minorities to certain neighborhoods and required they — but not white buyers — obtain pre-approvals for mortgages.

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Brokerage executives and dozens of Long Island-based real estate agents were sent subpoenas after failing to appear at an earlier hearing.

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“There’s an easy way and a hard way to do things,” tweeted Sen. James Skoufis at the time.

Skoufis, who chairs the Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations, said that only one of the 68 individuals invited to testify at the initial hearing showed up.

“The remaining 67 individuals either neglected to respond or outright refused to provide testimony,” he said. According to Newsday, 31 subpoenas were then issued.

After the Newsday investigation was published, The Real Deal asked several brokerages to respond to the findings. Elliman took a contrarian stance, attacking the publication’s report and methods.

“Newsday’s report is an unreliable, unethical, and unscientific attempt to create a news story where there is none,” a representative for the firm said at the time. The person noted that the firm has a mandatory agent training program that covers fair housing law, as well as a “zero tolerance policy” toward unfair and illegal treatment of any individual or group.

Newsday said its investigation employed the same methodology that the federal government uses in testing for violations of the Fair Housing Act. The testing was overseen and reviewed by external experts who did not receive payment from the publication. [Newsday] — Erin Hudson