The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a document that aims to protect individuals from dwelling prejudice when it comes to buying or renting a home. These laws were created to help ensure that everyone has equal living opportunities.

As a dwelling provider, it’s important to know and understand the provisions of the FHA to avoid committing any prejudice.

The provisions of the Fair Housing Act apply to all persons and entities involved in a dwelling transaction. The provisions protect buyers, residents, sellers, landlords, mortgage providers, lenders, credit unions, banks, appraisers, insurance providers, real estate agents, brokers and others dwelling providers from discrimination.

Committing any act of housing discrimination based on any FHA protected classes is a serious offense and persons who violate the Fair Housing Act or other Landlord-Tenant Laws can be charged with severe penalties.

Here's what owners need to know about the fair housing rights under US law and Florida law:

When Was the Fair Housing Act Created

The Florida Fair Housing Act is a law created to help prevent dwelling prejudice or discriminatory practices related to housing transactions and protect individuals who are prone to experience discrimination. The purpose of the Federal Fair Housing Act is to provide equal opportunity and rights to every American who is looking for a home to live in.

Although there have been attempts to create a fair housing law in America since the mid-1800s, significant changes didn’t happen until the 1960s Civil Rights movement. To address housing discrimination, the Rumford Housing Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were created.
A gavel sits on a desk while a judge signs a legal document in their department
In 1986, the FHA was established. This was the most innovative legislation at the time and it created a real change in the housing industry and how we protect individuals from discrimination. Today, every housing provider is required to abide by the FHA.

What Classes of People are Protected by the Fair Housing Act

In Florida, the classes protected against housing prejudice by the fair housing laws are the same as those at the federal level. The are seven federally protected classes also apply to Florida, which protect and give equal opportunity to the following classes:

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

In Florida, the FHA prohibits housing prejudice based on circumstances individuals can't control, including race, gender identity, sexual orientation, color, sex, religion, disability, familily status, physical or mental impairment, and national origin.
A family prepares dinner in a modern kitchen as the children wash dishes while their parent in a wheelchair chops vegetables on the table.
For example, a landlord is prohibited from denying an individual’s application to rent their dwelling based on their race or skin color. Landlords are also not allowed to find fault and evict a tenant who practices a particular religion. Refusing to rent to a person due to their race, collor, national origin, religion practices, sex, or anything else they cannot control is against the fair housing rules. You must provide all renters with an equal oportunity to rent.

Additionally, Florida a landlord is not allowed to require a person with a disability to submit a credit report if the same is not required from an applicant without a disability. Reasonable accommodations need to be made to protect people with disabilities from housing discrimination. We suggest reviewing legal resources or contacting our team of managers to understand reasonable accommodation.

Disbability related reasonable modifications could include making an accessible route by adding a ramp for any persons with a physical disability.

Similarly, if you're not renting out a shared space, property owners can't favor one sex over the other. For example, you cannot make your rental home exclusively available to women if it is not a shared property. It is also illegal for property owners to charge a higher rental price to renters with children under 18 years old.

Furthermore, property owners are not lawfully allowed to accept or reject a resident’s application based on their national origin. All of these forms of discrimination are considered prohibited practices.

Other Issues on Housing Discrimination

Fair and equal housing regulations were primarily created to protect a person from discrimination when it comes to seeking a home to buy or rent. As a landlord or owner, you need to familiarize yourself with issues that might be interpreted as discrimination that violates Fair Housing laws.

Here are some examples of fair housing violations and housing discrimination:

Selective Marketing

Selective marketing is when you target a specific type of renter, person, or buyer in your ads. For example, when advertising your rental home, you clearly specify that you only accept adults (without kids).
a landlord with black glasses and a blond ponytail types out a rental listing on a white laptop, searching through a department.
Another example of selective marketing is if you include or exclude prospective buyers or residents in your advertisements based on race, religion, color, familial status, disability, national origin, or sex.

Inconsistent Standards and Requirements

As a landlord, it’s important to be consistent when you lay out standards and requirements for prospective or current occupants. Some examples of discrimination based on inconsistent standards and requirements are below.

  • Lying about the availability of the rental when a prospective tenant makes an inquiry based on their race, color, national origin, or other protect class
  • Deliberately changing the requirements or the terms and conditions in the lease agreement depending on where the buyer or tenant is from
  • Requiring larger security deposits from renters of color
  • Providing different amenities and accommodations for residents of different religions
  • Not attending to repair or maintenance requests from renters based on a protected class
  • Providing limited access to amenities for families with children as this would be discrimination based on their familial status

What Are the Exemptions

In Florida, federal FHA exemptions are also followed. The following are legal exemptions from the fair housing laws:

  • Selling or renting out single-family houses without a real estate agent or broker
  • Selling or renting out owner-occupied properties that have four units or less
  • Private organizations and clubs that are exclusive to members only

How to Avoid Committing a Violation of the FHA

If you’re a landlord, it’s crucial to avoid making any mistakes and committing violations against the fair housing laws to prevent getting penalized. Doing the following will help prevent any FHA violations or legal issues in the future:

  • Understanding the legal regulations
  • Creating a standard tenant screening process that is applicable to everyone, which will prevent discrimation
  • Establishing a standard set of requirements for every applicant
  • Treating everyone with respect and being fair to all applicants and tenants
  • Working with a professional property manager to help you with your rental issues

Bottom Line

If you need help understanding the FHA, it’s best to work with an experienced management company that is familiar with federal, state, and local laws to ensure that you and your rental are protected.

Get in touch with the experts at NFI Property Management Solutions! Call us at 850-898-1230 for any of your rental management needs in Florida.

Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for expert legal advice. Also, laws change and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. If you have any legal questions or concerns please reach out to a licensed attorney.