Legal Line - Question of the Week - Neil B. Garfinkel



I am a licensed real estate salesperson and I represent an owner who is considering leasing her condominium to a foreign government official who has diplomatic immunity. What is diplomatic immunity? May a foreign government official waive their diplomatic immunity so that the owner retains her ability to sue them in the United States?


Diplomatic 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 diplomatic immunity (a "Diplomat") cannot be sued in the United States.
The status of diplomatic immunity belongs to the Diplomat’s country and not to the individual Diplomat. Accordingly, individual Diplomats cannot waive their diplomatic immunity. In many instances, the Diplomat’s country will not waive diplomatic immunity, making it practically impossible to successfully sue the Diplomat in a court in the United States.

Important Tips:

Please note that Lawful Occupation, National Origin and Citizenship are all protected categories under New York City Fair Housing laws. Thus, a Diplomat may not be discriminated against based on the Diplomat being a member of any one of the aforementioned protected categories. However, it would be legal for a landlord or owner to reject a Diplomat based on the fact that the Diplomat has the "status" of diplomatic immunity. The "status" of diplomatic immunity is not part of a protected category under Fair Housing Laws.
Prior to entering a transaction with a person who has diplomatic immunity, an owner should discuss the implications of the diplomatic immunity with an attorney who is familiar with handling such a type of matter.

Neil B. Garfinkel

REBNY Broker Counsel, Partner-in-charge of real estate and banking practices at Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson, LLP


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