Florida Fair Housing Act: An Overview

As a landlord in Florida, it’s important to be aware of the Fair Housing regulations that protect tenants against discrimination. By familiarizing yourself with these laws, you will be able to easily adhere to them and stay out of legal trouble when renting out your property.

This blog will cover all the things you need to know about the Fair Housing Act (FHA), how it’s enforced, and the discrimination laws that are specific to the state of Florida. If you’re interested in learning about this, keep on reading.

What is the Fair Housing Act?

The act is a law that was created to ensure that every American would have an equal opportunity to seek housing without the fear of discrimination. It’s a set of rules and regulations regarding landlords, tenants, and others in the housing industry. The FHA protects certain classes from being discriminated against when it comes to accessing housing.

The FHA prohibits discrimination against a tenant for any of the following reasons:

  • Color, race, and national origin
  • Disability
  • Familial status and religion
  • Sex

While many states extend protection to other protected classes not mentioned above, Florida does not.

How Does this Act Protect People from Discrimination?

The Act features 3 different sections when it comes to preventing discrimination. The following are actions that are prohibited and are ultimately considered discriminatory behavior.

real estate agent holding a for sale sign

When renting or selling a home one cannot:

  • Deny someone the ability to rent, sell, or negotiate for housing
  • Make a rental home unavailable or lie about its’ availability
  • Deny housing
  • Set different terms or conditions
  • Offer different amenities or accommodations in regards to a rental home
  • Convince a property owner to sell their home below value because of fear that religious, racial, or other minorities may be moving to the neighborhood. This behavior is also known as blockbusting.
  • Deny someone the ability to participate in any housing-related services. An example of this would be a multiple listing service.

Under the act mortgage lenders cannot:

  • Refuse to purchase or make a loan for a mortgage.
  • Establish different terms on a loan. This includes aspects like interest rates or fees.
  • Establish different standards and requirements for acquiring a loan
  • Deny information about a loan
  • Engage in discriminatory behavior while appraising a property

Other activities that are prohibited include:

  • Advertising your property to rent or sell and indicating that you have a preference for a person with a specific type of background, or that you wish to exclude a protected class.
  • Threatening or getting in the way of another individual’s housing rights

lawyer in their office on the phone with a client

Fair Housing Act Exemptions

In Florida, there are some cases in which people may be exempted from following the Fair Housing Laws. These are the specific exceptions:

  • Single-family homes that are sold or rented without the use of a broker
  • A rental home where the owner lives in one of the rooms or units. This exemption is only applicable if the property has 4 units or less.
  • Private clubs or organizations that have a members-only policy.

Enforcing the Fair Housing Act

When it comes to enforcing all of the laws stated in the FHA, The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) handles cases. The HUD has two methods to effectively ensure that landlords remain compliant with these rules and regulations.

Hiring Fair Housing Testers

HUD is known to hire people to approach landlords or someone selling their home, posing as a renter or home buyer. This practice can help them determine whether or not discriminatory behavior is present in the renting or selling of a property.

Someone hired by the HUD will most likely contact a landlord either in person or over the phone. They will also be looking at your rental ads and listings.

Investigating Claims of Discrimination

If an individual feels that their Fair Housing Rights have been violated, or that they are being discriminated against, they have the ability to file a claim with the HUD.

people speaking to real estate agent about buying a house

In response to the claim, the HUD will investigate the situation to determine whether there is any truth or merit to it. They will then decide whether further legal action will be necessary or not.

How To Avoid Accusations of Discrimination as a Landlord

As a landlord in Florida, it’s crucial to follow the rules set in place by the Fair Housing Act. To make sure that you always are adhering to the laws and regulations regarding discrimination, it’s smart practice to assume that every potential tenant you speak to us from the HUD.

By assuming this, you can avoid accidentally saying anything that may come across as discriminatory, while also avoiding legal trouble. Ultimately, it’s always important to be aware of the specific language you use regarding tenants.

What’s more, when screening tenants, it’s extremely important to be entirely consistent with the questions you ask and the standards that you have set for renters. Make sure that all of your qualifications are the same for every prospective tenant, and go through the same process with every applicant who wishes to rent your Florida property.

Ask each renter for the same documentation, references, and any other information you may need to determine whether they would be a good fit for your rental home. Most importantly, treat every applicant and tenant you have with dignity and respect.

Bottom Line

As a Florida landlord, you need to ensure that you follow the guidelines stated in the Fair Housing Act. At the end of the day, being a landlord means there are a lot of legal aspects that you must familiarize yourself with such as landlord-tenant laws, the legal eviction process, the state security deposit laws, leasing regulations, and more.

If you have any further questions about this topic or any other aspect of property management, don’t hesitate to contact our knowledgeable and professional team here at Best Rental Services. We provide quality property management services to help you maximize your ROI!

Disclaimer: This post should not be used in place of professional legal advice from a licensed attorney. Laws change frequently and this post may therefore not be up-to-date at the time you read it.