To prevent any discrimination in a housing transaction, all individuals and entities should abide by the Fair Housing Act. This law aims to protect individuals under certain classes from being discriminated against when buying or renting a home.

The goal of the Fair Housing law is to give equal opportunities to every American when it comes to finding a place to live.

All housing providers such as sellers, landlords, real estate brokers, agents, lenders, appraisers, mortgage providers, insurance companies, and others who are involved in a housing transaction, should comply with the rules and regulations set by the Fair Housing Act.

With this in mind, we at Keyrenter South Florida have put together this article so you can fully understand your rights and your responsibilities as a landlord under the Florida Fair Housing Act.

The Creation of the Fair Housing Act

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The goal of the Fair Housing Act is to prevent any discriminatory practices related to buying or renting a home. It also protects individuals who are typically being discriminated against for certain factors that they cannot control.

In the past, not all Americans had equal access to housing. In the 1950s, the National Association of Real Estate Boards’ code of ethics prevented real estate agents and brokers from introducing into a neighborhood any individuals that could damage property values.

But the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s has changed this notion, with the attempt to stop discrimination and introduce fair housing in the United States. To address discrimination, the Rumford Fair Housing Act of 1963, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were created.

Finally, in 1968, a week after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was established.

Florida Fair Housing Act Protected Classes

One of the most important aspects of the Fair Housing Act is its protected classes. This is a list of people who, in the past, may have been targets of discrimination but are now protected. As a landlord, you need to be aware of these classes to make sure all of your activities are legal with regard to the Fair Housing Act.

These classes include:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex
  • Disability
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Familial status (pregnant women, or having children under 18 years old)

So, you should offer equal opportunity for anyone to potentially rent your space, no matter if they are a member of these classes or not. This means that the sets of rules, requirements like a security deposit, and standards for a housing transaction should be fair and equal.

In addition, you are not lawfully allowed to charge a higher rent from a person with a disability or tenants with toddlers, compared to those who don’t have disabilities or are without minor children. Accepting or rejecting a prospective tenant’s rent application based on any of the seven factors above is prohibited by law.

Discriminatory Issues in Housing Transactions

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To protect individuals belonging to certain classes from being discriminated against, you must comply with the standards of the Fair Housing Act. So, to prevent any act of discrimination, it’s best to know the usual practices that you could encounter that are discriminatory:

  • When renting or selling a home, discrimination happens if:
    • You refuse to sell, rent, or negotiate with any of the above-mentioned protected classes.
    • You tell an individual who is a member of a protected class that the house is no longer available even if, in reality, it is not yet sold or rented.
    • You require a buyer or renter who belongs to a protected class to submit a different set of requirements from another buyer/renter who does not belong to a protected class.
    • A buyer/renter under a protected class receives different accommodations and/or amenities compared to the accommodations/amenities offered to other buyers/renters.
  • When offering a mortgage or loan, discrimination happens if:
    • A loan provider sets different terms, rates, and requirements for the borrower because of any of the seven factors mentioned above.
    • A loan provider refuses to provide information about the loan to an individual under a protected class.
    • A loan provider accepts or rejects a loan application due to the factors mentioned above.
    • A loan provider is not fair when appraising the property of an individual under a protected class.
  • Other discriminatory practices include:
    • Advertising a property only to selected individuals and deliberately excluding any of the protected classes.
    • Evicting tenants because they are a member of a protected class.
    • Interfering with or threatening any individual’s rights to fair housing.
    • Breaking your lease because of a protected class.

Exemptions From the Fair Housing Act

Certain situations are exempt from the Fair Housing Act. In Florida, the following cases are not included in this law:

  • Selling a single-family home without brokers
  • Renting an owner-occupied home that has four units or less
  • Members-only clubs and other private organizations

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How to Prevent Violations of the Fair Housing Act?

As a Florida landlord, you can prevent committing any violation of the Fair Housing Act through the following practices:

  • Knowing and understanding the law.
  • Be consistent in screening tenants by creating a standard tenant screening process that is applicable to everyone, regardless of whether the applicant belongs to a protected class or not.
  • Draft a standard rental agreement with terms, rules, and regulations that should apply to all tenants.
  • Work with a professional property manager – a professional property manager is knowledgeable of the law related to rental properties.

Bottom Line

If you need help with the Fair Housing Act, hire an experienced property management company that is knowledgeable of federal, state, and local laws so you can remain in compliance with the law. Contact Keyrenter South Florida at (561) 331-6000 for your rental property management needs.

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 regards to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.