Right now is a challenging time for landlords. While business might seem to be good on your end, it’s important to be aware of potential challenges to what you’ve put your hard work into. In recent months, we’ve talked about the cancel rent movement and the potential of “testers” targeting landlords over affordable housing programs like Section 8. The latter is becoming more and more prevalent and has now crossed from testers to actual renters suing over these issues in Broward County.
Last year, a case moved through the Circuit Court of the 17th Judicial Circuit for Broward County revolving around a fair housing organization testing whether landlords are discriminating over sources of income. Case CACE21009252 eventually ended in an agreement between the Plaintiff and Defendant, but the courts allowed this case to proceed to expose landlords to new challenges. In another case, a tenant claimed their application was denied purely because of Section 8 despite other factors present that would lead to the denial of most or all other applicants.
Ultimately, the risk doesn’t just revolve around court cases in Broward County or even Florida. The major risk to your business is what happens if the local courts rule that you did indeed violate § Sec. 16½-35.7 of the Broward County ordinances. If this happens, the tenant can take that decision and move forward with a federal discrimination case. This immediately exposes you to significant liability in federal courts because you start with the assumption of guilt based on the previous decision.
The reality is if counties get litigious this will mean far more landlords will be receiving notices of discrimination claims and cases. More and more people with bad intentions will take advantage of what’s supposed to be a voluntary program to file lawsuits. Waiting to see how this plays out could eventually cost you significantly – and even shut down your business.
What you need to do sooner rather than later is speak with an attorney. This problem is no longer hypothetical, and an attorney with experience both at the county level and federal level can help protect what you’ve worked so hard to build. The team here at Atlas Law will always advocate for Florida landlords and defend the right to operate a business. Contact our experienced team of attorneys immediately if you receive a notice that you’re being accused of discrimination over Section 8 or another income source.