The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that protects individuals from being discriminated against when it comes to housing. This law applies to landlords, lenders, sellers, agents, and other real estate providers.
This law was initially enacted in 1968 and is enforced by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The law indicates that homebuyers and tenants should not be discriminated against based on their race, color, sexual orientation and gender identity, national origin, religion, disability, and/or family status.
What Are the Protected Classes Under the Fair Housing Act?
Some states have adopted additional protected classes on top of the seven classes protected by the federal Fair Housing Act. In Florida, however, the protected classes are the same as the federally protected classes.
Florida law requires housing providers to provide reasonable accommodations and equal opportunity housing to everyone who needs them, regardless of the individual’s race, family status, skin color, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, and disability status.
As a landlord in Florida, you need to understand the Fair Housing Act and what counts as discrimination to avoid committing unintentional violations. Here are a few examples of housing discrimination:
Florida landlords should not refuse an applicant because of their race. For instance, rejecting a tenant application because a landlord thinks that the applicant's race doesn’t fit the neighbourhood's demographics is a violation of fair housing regulations.
If a prospective tenant who is a person of color wants to rent a property, the property owner should provide them with the same treatment as all other applicants.
The law strictly prohibits making the application process longer than usual or aiming to discourage the applicant from renting the property.
As a landlord, you can’t make a rental unavailable to interested tenants based on their religion. Regardless of religious affiliations, all prospective tenants must be given equal opportunities to rent a unit that they are interested in.
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
As a landlord, you can’t reject a tenant application or discriminate against applicants based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Landlords can’t set a different rent rate based on tenants’ nationalities. The Fair Housing Act aims to ensure that all rules and regulations related to renting a property, including the rental prices, are equal for all tenants.
Landlords are prohibited from refusing a tenant who is single, pregnant, or who has small children. Equal housing opportunities must be provided to every renter, regardless of their family status, as long as they meet all other standard requirements, such as the ability to pay rent on time.
As a landlord in Florida, you cannot discriminate against individuals who have a mental health, intellectual, or physical disability.
Other Forms of Discrimination
There are times when discrimination can happen even when a landlord isn’t aware they are violating the Fair Housing Act. Here are a few common examples of discrimination that you should be mindful of and avoid:
Selected marketing is when an ad targets a specific type of tenant and discourages certain individuals from applying.
For example, you cannot specify that your property is for adults only, as this constitutes discrimination based on familial status.
Inconsistent Standards and Requirements
Deliberately changing or adding to your policies based on a protected class is a Fair Housing Act violation. For instance, you cannot require a higher security deposit from a tenant who has a disability.
Penalties for Violating the Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act is designed to protect individuals from experiencing discrimination when buying or renting a home.
Landlords, home sellers, and other housing providers who violate any provisions in the Fair Housing Act will be penalized. Civil penalties range from $16,000 (for a first offence) to $65,000 (for those who have committed two or more violations over the past seven years).
Tenants, homebuyers, and other individuals who were victims of housing discrimination can file a case in the federal district court. If the plaintiff wins, the defendant (in this case, the housing provider) will be charged with actual, punitive, and compensatory damages on top of legal fees.
What Are the Exemptions From the Florida Fair Housing Act?
Florida law follows the federal Fair Housing Act exemptions. The following situations may be exempted.
- Selling or renting out owner-occupied properties with no more than four units.
- Exclusive, members-only private organizations and clubs.
Learning the law is an essential part of avoiding Fair Housing law violations. As a landlord, it’s important to have a straightforward and standard process when renting out your property, and this process should apply to everyone, regardless of whether they are part of a protected class or not.
If you are unsure if your rental adheres to the Fair Housing Act, reach out to Stringer Management today! Our team is well-versed in Landlord-Tenant Law and is committed to keeping your rental compliant with the Federal Housing Act!
Disclaimer: This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading.
Please contact us for any questions you have in regard to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.