Don’t Get in Trouble By Violating Fair Housing laws
Let’s say that you own some property and you’re looking to sell or rent that property. Discrimination may be the farthest thing from your mind, and certainly, you harbor no discriminatory thoughts. But it can be easy to find yourself in trouble with fair housing and Florida’s housing discrimination laws.
It is illegal to discriminate in leasing/renting or selling property on the basis of race, gender, religion, disability, and familial status (for example, being a single mother, or having young kids). The non-discrimination laws apply not just to the sales and rental of property, but to things like insuring, advertising, or financing property.
Some examples of discrimination are pretty obvious, and, frankly, reprehensible. People who want sexual favors in return for more favorable rental or purchase terms, or people who rent at a better price to people of a certain race are examples of obvious, and likely intentional, discrimination. Similarly, companies that lend money at a higher interest rate because someone “looks like they have bad credit,” is a tactic almost surely to be found illegal.
But most people who get in trouble with housing discrimination laws aren’t looking to harm anyone or be discriminatory. They just don’t realize how their actions, seemingly neutral, and with no ill intent, have a discriminatory effect.
For example, a housing association, seeking to enforce its rules and regulations, prohibits a disabled pardon from making modifications to property, when those modifications are needed for handicapped access. Or the owner of property touting, as a sales pitch, that the neighborhood is “very white/black/other race or nationality.”
Pregnancy is also a protected class, which means that if available, a pregnant person should not be charged a higher rate for renting property.
Or the owner of property insisting that you get an apartment with a certain number of bedrooms, because you have a certain number of children would be an example of discrimination based on family status, as would extra charges based on having a certain number of children in your family.
Note that 55 or older communities have a limited exception, so long as one resident in 80% of the rented or owned units is 55 or older.
Watch Your Staff and Advertising
Property owners should be sure that their advertising policies are fair, and that any third parties, such as property managers, showing or marketing property, are aware of discrimination laws.
There is a current trend of “testers,” which are people sent to pretend to want to purchase or rent property. These individuals often try to illicit discriminatory information from property owners or staff (for example, they may ask “how many minorities live here,” as a way to see if you will engage in discriminatory sales tactics).
If they do find that you are engaging in a discriminatory practice, they can sue you under Florida and federal fair housing laws-even though they didn’t actually ever intend to purchase or rent from you.
If you own property that you rent, you’re a business. Make sure that you’re in compliance with housing and discrimination laws. Call the West Palm Beach business litigation lawyers at Pike & Lustig to help you with your business, housing and employment law legal needs.