The Fair Housing Act, a cornerstone of civil rights legislation, plays a vital role in ensuring equal housing opportunities for all residents of the United States. This federal law is also significant in Florida, a state renowned for its diverse population and housing market.
This law applies to all housing providers, including home sellers, landlords, real estate agents, insurance providers, lenders, and others involved in a housing transaction. Any violation of the Fair Housing Act is punishable by landlord-tenant law.
What Is the Fair Housing Act and Why Is It Important?
The Fair Housing Act, enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and was last amended in 1988, It forbids discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and disability. Its primary aim is to eliminate housing discrimination and promote equal housing opportunities for all Americans.
In Florida, where diversity is celebrated, the Fair Housing Act is crucial in preventing discrimination and ensures that every individual has access to safe, affordable, and suitable housing.
Protected Classes Under the Fair Housing Act
The federal Fair Housing Act identifies seven protected classes to safeguard against discrimination, which are also recognized in Florida.
These classes include:
Housing providers are prohibited from discriminating against individuals based on their race or ethnicity, and they cannot unfairly or unequally treat potential tenants.
Housing providers must make housing available without regard to the color of a person’s skin.
Housing providers cannot refuse housing or impose different terms and conditions on someone due to their religion.
Discrimination based on sex or gender is not allowed. This includes discrimination against individuals a part of the LGBTQ2+ community or pregnant women.
Housing providers must treat all individuals fairly, regardless of their country of origin, ancestry, or birthplace.
This category protects families with children under the age of 18, pregnant women, and individuals in the process of obtaining custody of a child. Housing providers cannot refuse to rent or impose different terms and conditions on families with children.
Housing providers must make reasonable accommodations and allow individuals with disabilities equal access to housing.
Sample Violations Against the Fair Housing Act
Violations of the Fair Housing Act can take various forms. Some common examples include:
- Refusing to rent or sell housing to a person based on their protected class.
- Setting different terms, conditions, or privileges for housing based on an individual’s protected class.
- Providing false information about housing availability or price to steer individuals away based on their protected class.
- Discriminating in advertising, such as using language or images that exclude or discourage certain groups from applying.
- Harassing or intimidating residents or applicants based on their protected class.
- Failing to make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities, such as allowing service animals or modifying housing units.
Exemptions to the Fair Housing Act
While the Fair Housing Act is broad in its scope, there are certain exemptions, which include the following:
Single-family homes, duplexes, and triplexes where the owner lives in one of the units are generally exempt from the Fair Housing Act.
Housing operated by religious organizations that only house members of the same religion may be exempt.
Housing provided exclusively for members of private clubs may be exempt.
Housing designated for senior citizens (typically 55 years and older) may have exemptions, provided it meets certain criteria.
Local law Occupancy Standards
If local laws state a maximum occupancy for a property, landlords can impose this limitation and may deny a family with members that exceed this limit.
How Can Landlords Ensure Fair Housing Compliance
Florida landlords must ensure compliance with the Fair Housing Act during the rental process, including the following:
Landlords should ensure their advertising is free from discriminatory language and imagery, and does not exclude or discourage any protected class, and promotes equal opportunity.
Landlords should provide consistent information about available housing, avoiding false or misleading information to discourage individuals based on their protected class.
Rental prices should be uniform and not based on the protected class of the tenant. Discriminatory pricing is a clear violation of the Fair Housing Act.
Lease agreements should be fair and non-discriminatory. They should not impose different terms or conditions on tenants based on their protected class.
Landlords must use consistent and objective screening criteria for all applicants. Any additional requirements, such as credit checks or references, should be applied uniformly.
Accepting or Rejecting Applications
Landlords should evaluate rental applications without regard to the applicant’s protected class. They should not reject an application based on factors related to race, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability.
Landlords must make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities, such as allowing service animals or making necessary modifications to the rental unit.
Why Should Landlords Hire a Property Manager?
A property manager can play a crucial role in preventing violations against the Fair Housing Act through their expertise and dedication to fair housing practices.
They ensure that all advertising and marketing materials are in compliance with fair housing regulations by crafting advertisements that are free from discriminatory language or imagery.
They can also implement screening processes that are consistent and objective. Ensuring the equal treatment of all applicants regardless of their protected class. This helps in preventing violations related to the acceptance or rejection of applications.
Property managers are also well-versed in the laws surrounding reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities and can ensure that these accommodations are provided when necessary. This reduces the risk of disability-related violations.
The Fair Housing Act is a fundamental piece of legislation that ensures equality and opportunity in housing for all residents of Florida and the United States. By understanding this law, landlords in Florida can contribute to a more equitable and inclusive housing market.
When in doubt, it’s best to work with a professional property management company like Out Fast Property Management. This can help you navigate the rental process while staying in compliance with the law. Contact us today to guarantee your property’s compliance in the Fair Housing Act
Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided in this blog is intended for general guidance and should not be considered as a replacement for professional legal advice. It is important to be aware that laws pertaining to property management may change, rendering this information outdated by the time you read it.