Fair Housing Friday

Must a Landlord Offer a Lease to a Person with Diplomatic Immunity?

Neil B. Garfinkel

December 15, 2022

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A landlord is not required to offer a lease to a person if they have Diplomatic Immunity. Diplomatic Immunity ("Immunity") is not a Protected Class under fair housing laws. To be clear, the landlord is not required to offer the lease due to the Immunity status only. The landlord may not discriminate against the Diplomat due to the Diplomat’s Lawful Occupation, National Origin and Citizenship, which are all protected categories under New York City Fair Housing laws.

Immunity is a status granted to certain foreign government officials that removes them from the jurisdiction of United States courts. Therefore, a foreign government official with the status of Immunity cannot be sued in the United States. The status belongs to the foreign government to which the Diplomat is a citizen and not to the individual Diplomat.A landlord or owner may require a Diplomat to “waive” their Immunity in order to rent or purchase an apartment. However, since the status belongs to the foreign government, and not the individual, the government must be the entity which waives the status of Immunity for the tenant or purchaser. Therefore, it would be legal for a landlord or owner to reject a Diplomat based on the fact that the Diplomat has the "status" of Immunity, if the status is not waived by the foreign entity to which it belongs.

Prior to entering a transaction with a Diplomat, an owner should discuss the implications of the Diplomatic Immunity with an attorney who is familiar with handling such a type of matter.

Important Tip: On December 1, 2021 a Brooklyn-based Real Estate Broker (“Broker”) and his Licensed Real Estate Salesperson (“Salesperson”) both had their licenses revoked by the New York Department of State (“DOS”) for violating New York State Human Rights Law as well as New York State Real Estate License Law.  The Salesperson was accused of discriminating against a Malaysian diplomat.  To learn the details of this case, click here to view our past Fair Housing Friday article “Two Brooklyn Real Estate Licensees had their Licenses Revoked for Violating Fair Housing Law.”