What You Need to Know About the Fair Housing Act
One of the landlord’s responsibilities is to be updated with the property laws to prevent any violations. Be it unintentional, the law excuses no one, and the Florida Commission on Human Relations knows this. Thus, he needs to be aware of and guided by the Fair Housing Act. This particular Act is applicable during the tenant screening process and rental application.
If you’re a first-time Florida landlord, it will be advantageous to your end to learn the Fair Housing Act. This way, you won’t be investigated, asked to pay huge fines and damage your business reputation. This article will provide you with information to broaden your legal understanding. Learning this will also protect you from suffering through unfavorable consequences resulting from a violation enacted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
First, we’ll start with defining the Fair Housing Act, then focus on the protected classes and ways the Florida tenant is protected. Afterward, examples of the violation of the Act will be presented.
What is the Fair Housing Act?
Back in 1968, the Fair Housing Act was created, and so fair housing practices became adopted. In 1988, this law was amended. This Act prevents discrimination against protected classes when they sell or rent a property.
Who are the Protected Classes?
Under the Fair Housing Act, specific classes are given protection from being discriminated against as renters and homebuyers. These are the protected classes:
- Familial Status
- National origin
In other states, Florida fair housing laws have included additional classes to be protected from housing discrimination by landlords and home sellers. These are the added classes:
- Genetic Information
- Source of Income
- Sexual Orientation
- Veteran or Military Status
- Gender identity or expression
- Criminal History (arrest without conviction)
How is the Tenant Protected under the Fair Housing Act?
When a tenant rents a home, he is protected from the following actions of a landlord:
- The applicant is denied renting a home just because they practice a certain religion and sport a particular skin color. Further, it may also be because they suffer from a disability.
- The prospective renter is falsely informed that the house they want to rent is already occupied. The discrimination falls upon belonging to any of the protected classes.
- The applicant is subjected to additional conditions before they can rent the housing unit. They might be asked to provide additional requirements that other applicants are not asked for. The standards set for their application to rent are different from others as well.
- A marketing brochure may specifically include a particular preference when it comes to property availability. For example, the ad could stress a strict preference for female tenants who don’t have children. It could also state that only a white person is accepted or non-Muslims.
- An applicant may be given a different accommodation compared to other renters based on their status/characteristics. It can be the smallest or the oldest unit of which requires a lot of repairs. It can also be the most inferior rental space in the property. The person may be given only an extra storage area that’s not really comparable in quality housing compared to the other regular renters.
How is a Property Buyer Protected under the Fair Housing Act?
When a prospect buys a home, he is protected from the following actions that a seller may engage in:
- The buyer-borrower is rejected from a loan application by the lender just because the person belong to a particular sex and has a certain national origin. Further, she is below 18 or pregnant.
- The buyer-borrower is subjected to different conditions by the Florida lender. They are asked additional requirements and must meet another set of standards before being approved for a loan. Their interest rates are higher and loan terms less flexible than the other borrowers.
- The buyer-borrower is not informed by the lender about the different kinds of loans available to them. They could have benefited from these loans to purchase a property they had their sights set on.
- The buyer experiences discriminatory practices upon the appraisal of the property just because they belong to a particular race or practice a specific religion.
What are some examples of violations of the Fair Housing Act?
Even if the Fair Housing Act is created to protect against discrimination for the protected classes, violations to fair housing laws are still common. Here are some examples to recognize if you find yourself in the same situation.
- An applicant who happens to be pregnant has been rejected by the Florida landlord. They are qualified in all the requirements. Later on, they found out that the landlord has accepted a non-pregnant applicant who applied after you. This shows that the landlord prefers women who are single and childless.
- They applied to be a tenant, but the landlord informed them that the rental property is already occupied. Later, they discover that it was vacant at the time of their application. Instead, the landlord had chosen someone who belongs to another race.
- A prospective Florida renter becomes confused over the changing requirements of the landlord. Initially, when they spoke with the owner on the phone, the two discussed the conditions, and they met them. However, upon meeting the landlord and with the renter showing visual impairment, the owner raised the security deposit requirement. Plus, bans a companion pet in the property in the hopes that the renter will withdraw their application.
Some Fair Housing Act violations are not malicious and can be committed by a landlord who’s unaware of the Florida law. However, ignorance of the law cannot be used as an excuse by anyone. The landlord will still face penalties.
As a landlord, you must learn about the Florida property laws of which affect you and the tenant. Housing discrimination is not tolerated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Be aware that race, color, national origin, familial status, religion, sex, and disability are all protected classes under fair housing laws. It is in your best interest that you seek legal knowledge and consult with an expert before screening a tenant. This is also applicable when you create marketing material to avoid needlessly violating the Fair Housing Act.
If you're looking to hire a professional property manager with complete expertise on the Florida housing laws, like the Fair Housing Act, contact Innovative Property Solutions today.