Last month, as your ATL editors were leaving work, we ran into a fresh recruit to Biglaw, newly arrived in New York with a January draft date. He was at the corner of Mott and Houston after having looked at a possible apartment for rent. He recognized us as chroniclers of Biglaw’s troubles and complained about the New York housing search.
It’s not that it’s hard to find an apartment these days, thanks to the recession-inspired exodus from Manhattan. Instead, our Biglaw-bound reader said that he had found the perfect apartment but that the landlord had turned his application down. “I don’t have bad credit,” he said, and he looked respectable enough, going to open houses in a suit. “I think the landlord may have googled my firm and seen that it’s had layoffs.”
We doubt that landlords are coming to Above the Law to do background checks on potential tenants. We suggested that the rejection may be due instead to a certain housing phenomenon: discrimination against lawyers.
Our living experiences are limited to New York and Washington, D.C. but we imagine this is universal. Landlords don’t like lawyers. People who know the law and know their rights make for pesky tenants.
In D.C., we knew a lawyer who was also a landlord who said she would never rent to her own kind. Even if they’re not landlord-tenant law experts, they tend to know their way around (or out of) a lease. And they’re more likely to know the process for registering complaints with the city.
Is the lawyer discrimination myth true in your experience?
Here’s an open thread for newly-minted lawyers who have recently found housing to talk about problems they may have had, for housing horror stories where being a lawyer was an asset, and for lawyer-landlords to explain why a J.D. on a housing application may be viewed as a bad thing. You can also send us an email (subject line: “Housing”).
Update: A reader pointed us to this 2008 article in the New York Times about landlord discrimination in New York:
[A] 1977 court decision upheld a landlord’s right to refuse to rent to a lawyer, [but] the city’s human rights law was amended in 1986 to bar discrimination in housing on the basis of a lawful occupation. Co-op and condominium boards may, however, reject lawyers and other applicants based on specific actions — for instance, a pattern of filing lawsuits against neighbors.