Home Articles Everything You Should Know About Fair Housing Act in Florida

Everything You Should Know About Fair Housing Act in Florida

Photo by Mikhail Nilov: https://www.pexels.com/photo/law-book-in-a-podium-8730785/
Photo by Mikhail Nilov

The Fair Housing Act was passed into law in 1983 and was amended in 1989. It has been around for a very long time so that potential landlords do not discriminate against renters. Keep reading to find out what the Fair Housing Act is and what it means for potential landlords. 

What is the Fair Housing Act?

To put it simply, the Fair Housing Act is a law that lets every renter be considered for every property. This means that you as a landlord cannot discriminate against any potential renters for the reasons outlined in the legislation. It’s a way to avoid landlords choosing one renter over the other based on whatever factors they want and allows the market to be fair for everyone. 

The Housing Act states you can not discriminate against anyone based on the following things:

  • Race 
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Gender (this may include sexual orientation, depending on the county)
  • Disability
  • Familial Status
  • Religion

These are often referred to as the “7 Personal Characteristics” that a landlord must not use to judge a potential buyer or renter. If a renter feels they have been chosen over someone else based on one of these factors, then they have a legal right to challenge you in court. You have to make sure you are giving every renter a fair and unbiased chance to rent the unit. 

What type of housing does the Fair Housing Act Cover?

The Fair Housing Act covers most of the typical homes you would find in any residential area, but there are some limitations. The act does have some minor exemptions, and they are very limited. The act doesn’t always cover owner-occupied buildings that have less than four units, single-family homes that have been either sold or rented by the owner without using a secondary source such as an agent and some housing that religious groups operate along with private clubs that have occupancy limits. 

Does this just apply to renting or sales?

No. The act also outlines other situations where you may not discriminate against potential tenants based on the seven personal characteristics. 

  • Refusing to rent or sell housing 
  • Refusing to negotiate with potential clients for housing 
  • Making housing unavailable for potential clients
  • Setting different terms for the lease or sales agreement 
  • Provide a client with a different housing 
  • Falsely denying that any housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental to a potential client.
  • Making, printing, or publishing any notices pertaining to the sale or rental
  • Changing the sale or rental price specifically to discriminate
  • Use different qualification criteria to determine whether or not to sell or rent the property (such as application requirements, income standards, or credit check) 
  • Evict the tenant who is living there or a guest of the tenant
  • Harass the tenant (this includes sexual harassment)
  • Discourage the sale or rental 
  • Assign the tenant to a particular part of the building, a specific neighborhood, or a particular building based on their characteristics
  • Use persuasion to convince people to sell their homes by insinuating another group of people may be moving into the area (this is commonly called blockbusting)
  • Refuse to provide any information to a homeowners insurance company about your renters
  • Deny a seller access to a more extensive system of buyers 

These are just a few examples of housing discrimination that is illegal and situations you need to avoid. Let’s look at a couple of situations so you can get a good idea of what is allowed in the Fair Housing Act.

Situation 1: You are showing an apartment to a young couple. They fill out an application but mention that they don’t have photo identification to verify their identity. You do not ask their age, but one of them mentions how the location makes it easy for them to attend a local high school. They also mention how they are excited to be away from their parents so they can drink and smoke whenever they please. Is it ok to discriminate against these renters?

Answer: Yes. Age and tenant activities (especially activities that could potentially be illegal) are two things that you can consider. If your renter can not provide proof of their age, you could be putting yourself in a potentially liable situation if something happens on your property. 

Situation 2: You are showing a rental home to a prospective client. She mentions that she is a single mom to two kids and has trouble finding work in the area. She also mentions that her son is disabled and requires a wheelchair to enter and exit the home. As the house is outfitted with stairs, the renter offers to pay for a wheelchair ramp to be added after moving in so her child can easily access the home. Is ok to discriminate against her?

Answer: No. Her income and her marital status are not important to the rental agreement. If the renter is disabled or is moving in with another person who is disabled and they offer to pay for a modification to the property to allow their child to enjoy the property more, then that is perfectly acceptable and legal. There are very few situations where you are permitted to refuse the modification. 

Situation 3: You are showing a home for sale in Boca Bridges. The prospective buyer wants to live there with his family. So he wonders if he needs to follow the Fair Housing Act? 

Answer: No. Florida Fair Housing Act applies only to tenant-landlord relationships. Unless the buyer rents out the home, he doesn’t have to worry about it.

 

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