HUD Suit Against Florida Landlord Shows No Tolerance for Discrimination

By E-Renter Tenant Screening
Posted on December 21, 2010 under Landlord Tenant Lawsuits | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenant screening, pre-screening, background checkA recent case in Florida shows the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has little tolerance for racial discrimination against tenants. In this case, HUD charged the owners of a single-family home in Gibsonton, FL, with violating the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The charges include engaging in discriminatory housing practices for reneging on an agreement to rent the house to a woman and her children because they are African American. It also includes charges that the owners used racial slurs when referring to and addressing the family.

Most landlords are very familiar with the FHA, which bars discrimination against persons based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians), pregnant women (and people securing custody of children under the age of 18), and handicap (disability).

In the Florida case, the suit alleges that the owners initially agreed to rent the home to an African American woman and her three children. Two days after they moved in, the owner refused their rent payment. He then ordered the children out of the house while their mother was at work, and changed the locks. A relative found the kids about a quarter mile from the house, under a highway underpass.

Subsequent interactions between landlord and tenant included several uses of a racial slur, according to the tenant. The owners by then had rented the house to another tenant.

The case will be heard by an administrative law judge, who may award damages if he or she finds discrimination has occurred. The judge may impose punitive damages to deter further discrimination, as well.

The lesson here is nothing new: discriminating against a current or potential tenant on the basis of race is illegal. Landlords must be blind to race, disability, country of origin, religion, family status and color. And those who aren’t will face the consequences.

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