Equal access to housing is a civil right protected by law on both state and federal levels. The Fair Housing Act, which was originally adopted in 1968, prohibits discrimination in house sales, rentals, and financing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Similar protections are also enshrined in Florida Statutes, which broaden the scope of persons protected from discrimination by prohibiting unfair treatment based on disability and familial status, among other things. Those who experience discrimination and unfair treatment with regard to housing may be entitled to file a civil lawsuit and claim financial compensation against the perpetrators. In addition to a civil lawsuit, HUD can bring administrative action against a housing provider that violates the Fair Housing Act, which could result in financial and other penalties.
As a landlord, you need to be aware of recognized forms of discrimination. A lawsuit can destroy your reputation. In this article, we will explore a few of less notorious examples of discrimination you need to be wary of when leasing a new house or apartment.
1. Pet Restriction and Disabled Persons
Generally speaking, landlords are entitled to create rules with regards to the use of the property they put up for rent. As a result, your lease agreement may contain some legally enforceable restrictions that renters will have to adhere to when living in the property. Some provisions may prohibit all pets or restrict certain breeds or types of animals.
Nevertheless, if a renter is legally disabled and has a service animal, it may be considered discrimination based on disability if you tell someone they won’t be able to live there because the apartment or house doesn’t allow pets. This may be an instance of discrimination regardless of the kind of service animal and whether they need it for a physical or mental disability. However, the circumstances of each case may vary, so it is always best to consult an attorney experienced in Fair Housing Act cases before taking any action.
2. Construction Modifications and Disabled Persons
Similar to pet restrictions, the lease agreement may also prohibit the introduction of certain modifications to the physical design of the property. Such prohibitions may also be imposed by a condominium or homeowners association. However, what happens if someone becomes disabled due to a sudden medical condition and now the tenant requires certain home modifications? If you prohibit tenants from making such changes in the design of the property in order to accommodate the disability, it may be seen as discrimination. To take the best course of action available, it is advisable to consult a lawyer beforehand.
3. Discrimination Based on Family Status
Florida Statutes also prohibit discrimination based on family status. In practical terms, this means that property owners cannot refuse to offer housing to families with children or make arbitrary rules with regards to that (such as “families with children are only allowed on the first floor”). Another notorious example of discrimination may be charging an additional rental fee based on the number of family members residing on the property.
Experienced Housing Discrimination in Florida? Contact Atlas Law
Housing discrimination may take many forms. At times, you may be unsure if a policy, rule or regulation may be construed as discrimination. If you need legal advice and representation in relation to any legal issue related to Florida housing law, do not hesitate to contact our experienced attorneys at Atlas Law. Call us at 813.241.8269 to receive a free consultation regarding your case.