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8 Things to Know About the Fair Housing Act

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The Florida Fair Housing Act (FHA) entitles every American to equal opportunity in the housing market under the fair housing laws.

For example, housing providers who do not provide an accessible route into the property or provide reasonable accommodation for a disability or any other prohibited practices.

There are seven protected classes under the fair housing laws, including race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sex, and familial status.

However, there are landlords in Florida who aren’t aware of the implications that could lead them to federal court.

Some property owners or real estate agents face costly housing discrimination lawsuits because they don’t know about the FHA.

Are you a housing provider, landlord, or homeowners association in Broward County, Florida looking to learn more about the FHA?

Here are the eight most frequently asked questions about this federal law.

 

#1: What’s the Federal FHA?

The Fair Housing Act aims to counter any housing discrimination. It was put into place to stop sellers and landlords from housing discriminating against people from a particular class of society.

As a result, every American gets fair and equal treatment in activities related to housing. This protection includes renting and buying a house together with getting a mortgage loan.

 

#2: What’s the history behind the Fair Housing Act?

There is a series of events preceding the FHA and Florida commission on human relations. In the past, people dealt with serious housing discrimination issues at the local governments level. The strong will to counter these hardships resulted in:

  • The Civil Rights movement in the 1960s
  • The Rumford FHA in 1963
  • The Civil Rights Act in 1964

These actions led up to enacting the FHA in 1968. The establishment took place a week after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

 

#3: Who are protected under the Florida Fair Housing Act?

This federal law protects people in seven classes. The protected classes are: Race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sex and familial status.

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The category of familial status includes pregnant women, those securing legal custody, and those having children under the age of 18. In 2017, a ruling by a federal judge made clear that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected classes under the FHA. There is a pending effort for an amendment to make the principle explicit.

 

#4: What does the Fair Housing Act aim to achieve?

You may wonder what housing discrimination looks like in real-life situations. Take a look at the following list of practical examples:

  • Discriminatory statements against a protected class, such as race, color, national origin or other protected class, in property ads
  • Refusal to disclose information about a mortgage loan
  • Setting disparate terms and conditions on a mortgage
  • Refusal to rent, sell, or negotiate for housing or make reasonable modification
  • False claims about the availability of housing because of a tenant’s national origin, race, or other protected class
  • Quoting various terms and conditions depending on the prospective tenant’s class
  • Refusal to make or purchase a loan
  • Making changes to amenities, other environmental controls, and accommodations depending on the tenant’s race, color, religion, sex, or other protected class that are not classed as reasonable modifications.

There are many other potential scenarios. All these forms of housing discrimination are exactly what the FHA aims to shield buyers and tenants against.

 

#5: Does the Fair Housing Act apply to everyone?

No, the most noteworthy exemptions under Florida statutes are as follows:

  • Single-family homes rented or sold without using a broker
  • An owner-occupied home that has less than four units for rent
  • A private club or organization with a members-only policy

 

#6: What are the consequences for violating the FHA?

The penalties depend on the nature of the violation.

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Simple discrimination charges may result in a fine or imprisonment for a year at most or both.

 

#7: How is the Fair Housing Act enforced?

The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) holds responsibility for the FHA. Anyone who feels their right has been violated can:

  • File a claim with the HUD
  • File a lawsuit in a federal district court

There are two ways HUD enforces the FHA:

  1. They investigate all the discrimination claims. After someone files a claim, they dispatch a dedicated team for investigating the issue. After conducting a thorough analysis, they decide on the next appropriate steps.
  2. They hire people to pose as buyers and tenants. That’s why landlords and sellers have to be alert at all times. As a landlord, you can’t afford to make any mistakes in your ads, on phone conversations, and face-to-face meetings.

 

#8: How can landlords avoid discrimination?

  • Remain cautious about what you say on the phone and in person.
  • Analyze your rental ads before getting them published. Remove anything that may attract discrimination charges or sexual harassment charges.
  • Have the same standards for all prospective tenants.
  • Treat everyone with respect.
  • Check for state and local laws for further protected classes.
  • Remain consistent in the process of tenant screening.
  • Recognize any bias you might have against your tenants. Take steps to avoid this bias affecting your actions.

A common misconception involves concluding that you have to accept the first applicant. You can still rule out renters based on criteria that aren’t discriminative. For example:

  • Insufficient income level
  • Conviction of a crime that could endanger other tenants
  • Poor credit

 

The Bottom Line

The FHA counters discrimination in the housing sector. As a landlord, you have to comply with this federal law at all times. U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development is responsible for the FHA. HUD hires people to randomly check for non-compliance.

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The FHA act comes with seven categories of protected classes. The protected classes include race, color national origin, familial status, religion, disability, and sex.

Landlords have to make sure that they don’t take any discriminatory actions against these protected classes and they need to make reasonable accommodations. Even simple discrimination charges carry a fine or imprisonment for a year at most or both under Florida statutes.

If you believe that you’d benefit from the services a professional property management company offers, contact Florida Property Management & Sales today!

 

Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for expert legal advice. For legal help, contact a qualified attorney. The fair housing law may change, and this blog might not be updated at the time you read it. You may also check to U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) official website for updates.