Breaking Down the Florida Fair Housing Laws
Passed in 1968 by Congress and signed into law by former President Lyndon B. Johnson, the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) is an anti-discrimination law that prohibits discrimination in housing based on the protected characteristics of potential tenants or prospective homebuyers. This law forbids property owners from discriminating against people based on their color, race, national origin, sex, religion, familial status, and disability status. Among other forms of disability discrimination, the refusal of property managers, condominium associations, and HOAs to provide reasonable accommodations to their practices, services, policies, or rules to disabled people is illegal discrimination under the FHA when accommodations are necessary to allow a disabled person to use and enjoy a home as much as anyone else.
The federal agencies that enforce the FHA include the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These two agencies receive many complaints each year from people with disabilities who have been refused reasonable accommodations. In addition to this federal law, Florida fair housing laws might also provide some protections to disabled people who live in condominium associations. If you think that you have been the victim of disability discrimination under the Fair Housing Act by your condominium association, Florida condo attorney Herb Milgrim can review what happened and explain your rights and legal options under both federal law and Florida condo law. Here is some information about disability discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.
What Is Prohibited Disability Discrimination under the FHA?
The Fair Housing Act forbids landlords, property managers, home sellers, HOAs, and condominium associations from discriminating against residents or applicants based on their disability or perceived disability. It also prohibits discriminating against a resident or applicant based on their relationship with someone else who has a disability.
Prohibited disability discrimination under the law occurs when a housing provider treats a disabled person less favorably because of their disability status. A condo association or another housing provider also can’t refuse to reasonably accommodate a disabled applicant or resident in the policies, practices, rules, or services when accommodations are necessary to allow the disabled person an equal opportunity to enjoy and use their home.
Housing providers are not allowed to turn applicants down because of their disability. They can’t place conditions on approving their application simply because the applicant might need reasonable accommodations. In some cases, the FHA requires housing providers to allow disabled residents to make reasonable structural modifications to common areas and units when they are necessary for the residents to fully enjoy their homes.
These requirements apply to both publicly and privately owned housing, with some limited exceptions. They also apply to federally subsidized homes or those that are rented using Section 8 vouchers.
Who Is Covered By the FHA’s Requirements to Provide Reasonable Accommodations?
Entities or individuals who provide housing are prohibited from refusing to make reasonable accommodations for disabled people in terms of their services, practices, policies, or rules when those accommodations are necessary to allow the disabled applicant or resident the equal ability to enjoy and use their home. Any person or entity that violates this law might be held liable for disability discrimination under the FHA unless they meet an exception to the law.
In the past, courts have found the FHA covers individuals, associations, corporations, and others who are involved in the residential lending and housing provision processes. This includes condominium associations, homeowners associations, property owners, property managers, and brokerages. Local and state governments have also been found by federal courts to be covered by the FHA, primarily in the areas of land use or restrictive zoning. A couple of example cases include:
- City of Edmonds v. Oxford House, Inc., 514 U.S. 725 (1995)
- Project Life v. Glendening, 139 F.Supp. 703 (D. Md. 2001)
However, there are some limited exceptions to the FHA. The reasonable accommodation provisions of the FHA don’t apply to private homeowners who sell their own homes when they do not own more than three single-family residences, do not use a real estate agent, don’t publish discriminatory notices or advertisements, have not sold another home within the previous two years, and is not in the business of renting or selling homes. A second exception to the rules exists for multifamily buildings of up to four units that are owner-occupied.
Who Qualifies as Disabled Under the FHA?
Under the FHA, a disabled person includes any of the following:
- A person with a mental or physical impairment that results in a substantial limitation in one or more major activities of life
- A person who is perceived as having a substantially limiting mental or physical impairment
- A person who has had a substantially limiting mental or physical impairment in the past
The law goes on to define a mental or physical impairment as including all of the following:
- Orthopeic diseases and conditions
- Visual, hearing, or hearing impairments
- Cerebral palsy
- Epilepsy/seizure disorder
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Heart disease
- Intellectual disabilities
- Mental/emotional illness
- Drug addiction (excludes addiction to current use of illegal drugs)
The FHA doesn’t restrict disabilities to only those in the above-listed categories. Any disability that substantially limits someone’s ability to perform a major life activity should qualify. A major life activity includes activities that are important to life, including speaking, learning, self-care, manual tasks, breathing, walking, hearing, and seeing. Other activities might also be considered major life activities. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court held reproduction is a major life activity for some people in Bragdon v. Abbott, 524 U.S. 624 (1998).
Consult a Florida Condo Attorney
If you have a disability and believe you were illegally denied reasonable accommodations in violation of the Fair Housing Act and Florida fair housing laws, you should speak to Florida condo attorney Herb M. Milgrim. Attorney Milgrim has years of experience advocating for the rights of individuals in disputes against condo associations, HOAs, and cooperatives. Contact the Law Office of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A. today to discuss your case by calling 954-966-3909.