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Legal Trolls File Lawsuits Based on Local Ordinances

Florida Realtors recently became aware of several lawsuits filed against real estate brokers in Miami-Dade and Broward counties alleging discriminatory advertising – a violation of fair housing laws.

While lawsuits alleging a fair-housing violation are not new, these actions don’t focus on the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA); instead, they’re based on local ordinances that go beyond FHA requirements. The immediate focus is South Florida, but it’s reasonable to assume that landlords and brokerages statewide could be at risk.

Specifically, South Florida brokers are being sued for discriminating against tenants with Section 8 vouchers in Florida cities with local ordinances that, unlike the Fair Housing Act, have a “source of income” protected class that precludes discrimination against tenants with Section 8 vouchers.

However, not all cities recognize this protected class. As a practical matter, though, it’s important for Realtors to find out if their local government has ordinances that go beyond the FHA rules on fair housing. If they do, Realtors are encouraged to audit their listings and advertising to ensure that no listing – whether in the MLS or not – contains language that disallows housing to someone with a Section 8 voucher, if applicable, or other citywide requirement.

Realtors must also educate their landlords and property managers about local laws and make sure they understand what’s not permissible under the local ordinances.

Specific Miami-Dade and Broward county requirements

In Miami-Dade and Broward counties, their Fair Housing protected classes extend beyond those created under federal law. The federal Fair Housing Act protects against discrimination based on the following seven categories:

  • race
  • color
  • religion
  • national origin
  • sex
  • disability
  • familial status

Miami-Dade County’s ordinances include the seven listed above, but the following categories have been added to local ordinances located in Chapter 11A Discrimination, which includes specific rules on housing in Article II:

  • ancestry
  • pregnancy
  • age
  • marital status
  • gender identity
  • gender expression
  • sexual orientation
  • source of income, (Section 8 vouchers)
  • actual or perceived status as a victim of domestic violence, dating violence or stalking

Exemptions: Note that Chapter 11A contains exemptions to these rules which are similar to the federal fair housing laws, as well as exemptions regarding housing for older persons and communities restricted as 55 and over.

Broward County’s ordinances include the seven listed above as part of the Fair Housing Act, and the following categories have been added to a local ordinance located in Section 16½-2 of the Broward County Code of Ordinances:

  • age
  • marital status
  • political affiliation
  • sexual orientation
  • pregnancy
  • gender identity or expression
  • veteran or service member status
  • lawful source of income, (Section 8 vouchers)
  • victims of dating violence, domestic violence or stalking

Exemptions: Note that Section 16½-35.5 contains exemptions to these rules which are similar to the federal fair housing laws, as well as exemptions regarding housing for older persons and communities restricted as 55 and over.

The bottom line for members? Check your city or county laws. If fair housing protections go beyond those mandated by the Fair Housing Act, understand what you must do to comply, take appropriate action to do so, and make sure all your agents and landlords understand the rules.

Original Source

I am one of the Managing Brokers for United Realty Group, Inc. I have been servicing the residential real estate market since January 2007 and have formed a real passion for the industry. With high standards and a strong moral compass, I am pleased to serve our industry and URG's REALTORS on a daily basis.

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