1. Definitions. For the purposes of this section, a person is a “domestic violence victim” and possesses “domestic violence victim status” if such person is or has been, or is a parent accompanied by a minor child or children who is or has been, in a situation in which such person or child is a victim of an act that would constitute a violent felony offense as enumerated in section 70.02 of the penal law , or a family offense as enumerated in subdivision one of section eight hundred twelve of the family court act , and such act is alleged to have been committed by a member of the same family or household, as defined in subdivision one of section eight hundred twelve of the family court act .
2. Discrimination based on domestic violence victim status prohibited. (a) No person, firm or corporation owning or managing any building used for dwelling purposes, or the agent of such person, firm or corporation, shall, because of such person's or family member's domestic violence victim status, (1) refuse to rent a residential unit to any person or family, when, but for such status, rental would not have been refused, (2) discriminate in the terms, conditions, or privileges of any such rental, when, but for such status, such discrimination would not have occurred, or (3) print or circulate, or cause to be printed or circulated, any statement, advertisement or publication which expresses, directly or indirectly, any limitation, specification, or discrimination. A violation of this subdivision shall be a misdemeanor and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars and not more than two thousand dollars for each offense; provided, however, that it shall be a defense that such person, firm, corporation or agent refused to rent a residential unit on any other lawful ground.
(b)(1) Where discriminatory conduct prohibited by this subdivision has occurred, such person or family shall have a cause of action in any court of appropriate jurisdiction for compensatory and punitive damages, with such punitive damages not exceeding two thousand dollars for each offense, and declaratory and injunctive relief; and (2) in all actions brought under this section, reasonable attorneys' fees as determined by the court may be awarded to a prevailing party, provided, however, that a prevailing defendant in order to recover such reasonable attorneys' fees must make a motion requesting such fees and show that the action or proceeding brought was frivolous. In order to find the action or proceeding to be frivolous, the court must find one or more of the following: (i) the action was commenced, used or continued in bad faith, solely to delay or prolong the resolution of the litigation or to harass or maliciously injure another; or (ii) the action was commenced or continued in bad faith without any reasonable basis and could not be supported by a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law. If the action or proceeding was promptly discontinued when the party or attorney learned or should have learned that the action or proceeding lacked such a reasonable basis, the court may find that the party or the attorney did not act in bad faith.
(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed as limiting the ability of a person, firm or corporation owning or managing a building used for dwelling purposes, or the agent of such person, firm or corporation, from applying reasonable standards not based on or derived from domestic violence victim status in determining the eligibility of a person or family seeking to rent a residential unit.
(d) This section shall not apply to buildings used for dwelling purposes that are owner occupied and have two or fewer residential units.
3. A person, firm, or corporation owning or managing a building used for dwelling purposes or agent of such person, firm or corporation shall not be civilly liable to other tenants, guests, invitees, or licensees arising from reasonable and good faith efforts to comply with this section.
4. Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting a person, firm or corporation owning or managing a building used for dwelling purposes, or the agent of such person, firm or corporation, from:
(a) providing or preserving a rental preference in any public or private housing for victims of domestic violence;
(b) providing any other assistance to victims of domestic violence in obtaining or retaining any public or private housing; or
(c) responding to an inquiry or request by an applicant, tenant, or leaseholder who is a victim of domestic violence.
5. Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting a municipality from retaining or promulgating local laws or ordinances imposing additional or enhanced protections prohibiting discrimination against victims of domestic violence.
6. Nothing in this section shall be construed as limiting, diminishing, or otherwise affecting any rights under existing law.
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