As a landlord, understanding the laws is important in making sure you’re running a stress-free investment property. Chapter 83 of Florida statutes requires landlords to abide by certain laws, and among these is the Florida Fair Housing Laws.
Fair housing laws, much like landlord-tenant laws, simply require housing providers like landlords to treat their tenants fairly and equally. These laws apply to each and every landlord, whether you’re just getting started or already own dozens of investment properties.
The following are answers to commonly asked questions regarding the Fair Housing Act in Florida.
What Does the Term ‘Fair Housing’ Mean?
Fair housing means just that – ensuring there is fairness and equality when it comes to housing matters. This opportunity applies not only to renters, but also to home buyers and individuals looking for mortgage finance.
The Fair Housing Act in Florida outlaws discrimination by the following housing players.
- Property owners and managers
- Insurance providers
- Homeowner associations
- Mortgage lenders and brokers
- Real estate agents
- Anyone else who has an impact on housing opportunities
What Is the Federal Fair Housing Act?
The law was created to educate all players in the housing industry about discriminatory housing practices. The clamor for fair housing began in 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
This helped ban segregation in public places and prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of five protected classes. That is: race, color, nationality, sex, and religion. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is considered one of the crowning legislative achievements of the civil rights movement.
The act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964. That said, the act failed to address discriminatory housing practices that existed at the time. And this is what led to the creation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
The Fair Housing Act of 1968, also known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, is considered to be the third leg of landmark civil rights cases by historians, the first two being the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The act made it illegal for housing providers like landlords, mortgage financiers, and home sellers to discriminate against their clients on the basis of four protected classes. That is: race, color, nationality, and religion.
The act was further amended in 1974 to include sex as a protected class. Congress, again, amended the landmark act in 1988 to include disability and familial status as protected classes. With these two amendments, the total number of protected classes grew to 7.
So, at the federal level, there are now 7 protected classes: race, color, nationality, religion, sex, disability, and familial status.
What Are the Protected Classes in Florida?
The Federal Fair Housing Act applies in all fifty U.S. states. With that in mind, various states have also added extra protections along the way. Florida is one of these states. Florida law provides additional protections for pregnant individuals.
Therefore, there are 8 protected classes under the Florida Fair Housing Act. That is: race, color, sex, religion, nationality, familial status, disability, and pregnancy.
In Florida, fair housing laws are enforced by the Florida Commission on Human Rights Relations (FCHR).
What Are Some Examples of Discriminatory Practices?
As a landlord, the following are discriminatory practices that you must avoid at all costs when renting out your Florida home.
- Discrimination on the basis of a tenant’s race. This is illegal. You must not use race as part of your qualifying process. Discrimination on the basis of a tenant’s color. Whether a tenant is White, Black, or Brown, you must treat them fairly and equally.
- Discrimination on the basis of a tenant’s religion. You must not prefer one religion over another when it comes to qualifying prospective tenants or when exercising your landlording obligations.
- Discrimination on the basis of a tenant’s nationality. You must treat all tenants fairly regardless of their accent, ethnicity, and/or perceived national origin.
- Discrimination on the basis of a tenant’s sex. Whether male or female, you must treat all tenants equally. Suggesting, for instance, a particular unit is safer for one gender and not the other can cause issues down the road.
- Discrimination on the basis of a tenant’s familial status. You cannot deny, for instance, to rent to a tenant because they have children living with them.
- Discrimination on the basis of a tenant’s disability. Disabled tenants also enjoy certain rights under fair housing laws. Specifically, they have a right to be provided with reasonable accommodations and modifications. For instance, even with a “no pets” policy, you must allow tenants with service animals to be able to have them.
The following are also other ways in which discrimination can occur.
- Refusing to rent out your property or breaking a lease because of the individual’s race, color, nationality, or any other protected class.
- Including discriminatory statements in your rental ad. Examples include: “A Male Tenant Preferred,” “No Dogs Allowed,” or “Not Suitable for Children.”
- Asking prospective tenants discriminative questions. For instance, where are you originally from? How many children do you have? Are you married? Have you ever been arrested before?
- Evicting a tenant for hoarding things. Hoarding is considered a disability under the Fair Housing Act.
How Can Landlords Avoid Potential Discriminatory Practices?
The following are some tips to keep in mind.
- Don’t use discriminatory statements in your rental ads.
- Ask the right questions when screening tenants.
- Have a consistent screening process. If you ask one tenant for a security deposit, ask all tenants for one.
- Provide disabled tenants with reasonable accommodations and modifications.
- Treat all tenants fairly and equally when responding to issues.
Now you’re familiar with the basics of the Florida Fair Housing Act. If you still have a question or need expert help in managing your rental property, Keyrenter Broward can help. We’re one of the top solutions for investment property owners in Broward County. Get in touch to learn more!
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.