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Fair Housing

 

It's Your Right!!

 

Overview

It is the County policy to promote (through a fair, orderly and lawful procedure) opportunities for each person desiring to obtain housing of their choice in Leon County, without regard to Race, Color, Ancestry, National Origin, Religion, Sex, Familial Status, Marital Status, Handicap, Age or Sexual Orientation and prevent discrimination in housing by any person. This program receives complaints, investigates, and uses persuasion, conciliation and mediation or information adjustment of grievances.

Staff provides information to the public, through education and informational seminars throughout the community, regarding Fair Housing. Leon County partners with the City of Tallahassee's Equal Opportunity Office, Florida Commission on Human Relations and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. During the month of April each year, National Fair Housing Month is celebrated by providing public information sessions.

Equal Housing Opportunity Information

Please Watch Video

What is Fair Housing?

Fair housing is your right under the law to compete equally for housing, without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or family status. Fair housing is a right, not a privilege. Federal law prohibits housing discrimination based on your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, or disability.
More info - Powerpoint Presentation

What is Discrimination in Housing?

Discrimination can be manifested in any situation in which a group or individual is treated differently based on something other than individual reason, usually their membership in a socially distinct group or category. Such categories would include ethnicity, sex, religion, age, or disability. Discrimination can be viewed as favorable or unfavorable, depending on whether a person receives favors or opportunities, or is denied them.

Leon County’s Fair Housing Laws Protects these Groups:

Race or color
Religion
National Origin
Sex
Sexual Orientation
Familial status
Age


These Laws Apply To: Residential Real Estate Transactions such as:

Renting
Sales/Buying
Advertising
Financing
Mortgages/Lending
Homeowners and rental insurance
Zoning


Do Renters Know that:

It is their right to have equal opportunity to live where they choose?

Federal and state laws protect them against illegal housing discrimination?


RESPONSIBILITIES AND RIGHTS OF LANDLORDS
 

Landlords have the responsibility to:

  • Consider equally all qualified applicants;
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  • Give all applicants accurate, complete information about available units, occupancy dates, and rental terms or conditions;
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  • Refrain from making written or verbal inquiries about an applicant’s ethnicity, religion, sex or marital status; and
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  • Be consistent in applying rental policies.

 

Landlords have the right to:
 

 

  • Screen people based on their ability to meet objective business qualifications;
  • Request completed rental applications;
  • Request job, resident, credit, banking, former landlord and personal references;
  • Require reasonable income in relation to the rent charged; and
  • Require residents to comply with reasonable occupancy rules and conditions.

What a Landlord Can Do:
 

  • Require a credit check and proof you have income to afford the dwelling.
  • Require documentation of the necessity for reserved parking or a service or therapy animal.
  • Require you to pay for modifications to your dwelling and require you to return the unit to its original state when you move out.
  • Require the names of all people who will be living in the unit and the ages of anyone named as a lessee.
  • Require that children and pets–including service animals–be properly supervised when outside the unit.
  • Require a reasonable and equable security deposit.
  • Require that all tenants–including children–respect the rights of other tenants and comply with all community regulations.
  • Rent to the best-qualified tenant.
  • Refuse to rent to a tenant who would pose a threat to other tenants because of illegal drug abuse or severe mental illness.
  • Refuse to rent to tenants engaged in illegal activity.

What a Landlord Can’t Do

Refuse to rent to you. This includes more subtle actions such as suggesting you wouldn’t be happy in a certain complex, showing you an apartment in a neighborhood or complex other than the one you are interested in, or stating that a building is not handicapped accessible.

Put special restrictions on your tenancy. This would include such things as charging you a larger security deposit because you have children, restricting your use of common facilities to certain hours, or having "adults only" hours in recreation facilities. This also includes such things as setting aside certain areas of a complex for families with children or restricting disabled tenants to lower floors ("for their own protection").

Advertise a vacancy in such a way as to imply a certain type of tenant is sought. Phrases such as "perfect for a single professional," "couples preferred," "family-oriented community, close to St. Mary’s Church" are discriminatory if they make any potential tenants feel unwanted, regardless of the landlord’s intent in using them.

Fail to allow reasonable accommodations for disabled tenants. If you request a reserved handicapped parking space close to your unit, your landlord must comply (though he/she may require documentation of its necessity). He/she must also enforce this right by keeping other tenants from using the space. Other "reasonable accommodations" include: strengthening bathroom walls to install grab bars, lowering light switches, widening doors, and making common facilities’ accessible. Your landlord isn’t required to pay for most modifications to your unit, and can require that you return the unit to its original state when you move out. All building with more than four units built after 1991 are required to be completely accessible. In addition, your landlord cannot use a no-pets policy to keep you from having a service dog or therapy animal.

Ask questions to elicit information about your race, religion, marital status, etc. Asking an obviously pregnant woman without a wedding ring about her husband or asking someone on crutches about their injury are just some examples of this.

You may be experiencing discrimination if . . .
 

  • You’ve been renting an apartment for a number of years, and now, you have a child. Your landlord suggests that you might be more comfortable in a different unit or complex or refuses to renew the lease because "the child puts you over the legal number of people allowed in your current unit."
  • You are blind or disabled and have a service dog. When you meet with the landlord, he/she tells you he/she’s sorry, but the complex you are interested in is pet-free.
  • A maintenance man tells a renter that "only real Americans" should be allowed to live in the apartment complex where he works.
  • A rental office is decorated with many large pictures of the residents participating in the community’s facilities and amenities such as exercising in the weight room, swimming, volley ball, and tennis. However, all of the pictures are of white, young, "yuppies"; none of the pictures show children, or persons of differing ages, races or nationalities.

Illegal Discrimination examples:
 

  • You are told the apartment has been rented, but the "for rent" sign is still up
  • The owner tells you that your children have to have separate bedrooms
  • The manager takes your application and promises to call you, but your phone never rings
  • You have an "assist" animal, and you are told "no pets allowed"
  • The landlord explains why another place would be better for you
  • A real estate agent steers you away from the neighborhood that you requested
  • Your condo or housing association won’t let you make physical modifications necessary because of a disability to your unit
  • You are told all first floor units are rented, and children aren’t allowed on the upper floors

If you inquire about housing and you hear:
 

  • We had an apartment, but someone just put a deposit on it...
  • Sorry, we just rented the last apartment...
  • The apartment won’t be available for several months...
  • You probably wouldn’t like it here...
  • This apartment is a little expensive, isn’t it?
  • We can’t make an appointment for you now, why don’t you call back?
  • I know of a nice area where most of the people speak your language...
  • We can’t have three generations living in one apartment...
  • I think there’s a synagogue a few miles from here. You might want to try that area...
  • You do go to church, don’t you?
  • The rental deposit for male tenants is a little higher because they don’t keep the place as neat...
  • We like to keep it "male only", because we don’t want any "trouble"...
  • What income do you have besides child support and alimony?
  • I might have a vacancy. How bad do you want it honey?
  • We don’t allow children on the second floor...
  • We need a higher security deposit for tenants with under age children...
  • There’s no place for kids to play here...
  • The apartment is too small for kids...
  • We can’t waive our "no pets" policy, even for your servicer/guide dog...
  • I’m sorry, we only rent to working people...
  • Your income has to be four times the rent...
  • We can’t allow you to widen any doorways to accommodate your wheelchair...
  • You will have to wait for the first available parking place, and we can’t guarantee you the space outside your unit...
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If You Think Your Rights Have Been Violated...

HUD or a State or local fair housing agency is ready to help you file a complaint.

Leon County Complaint Process

I. Complaint

1. When a citizen alleges that a discriminatory housing practice has occurred he or she must report the alleged offense to the administrator of the ordinance by filing an informal complaint within 45 days after the date of the alleged discriminatory practice. The allegation must be in writing and contain the following information:

  • Identity and address of the respondent
  • Date of the incident and date of filing of informal complaint
  • General statement of the facts of the incident including the basis of the alleged discrimination (race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age handicap, or marital status)

The contents of the complaint shall be held in confidence by the administrator unless and until the complainant's and the respondent's consent in writing to make it public.

2. Within 15 days after the filing of the informal complaint, the administrator transmits a copy of it to each respondent by return receipt certified mail. Upon receipt, each respondent may file a written, verified informal answer to the complaint.

3. The administrator may assist the respondents or complainants when necessary in the preparation and filing of informal complaints or responses.

4. The administrator then advises both parties of their rights and options as provided under F.S. 760.34.

II. Processing of Complaints

1. Within 30 days of the filing of an informal complaint, the administrator makes an investigation to ascertain all of the facts and issues. If, in the administrator's opinion, a violation has occurred and can be resolved by mediation, then he/she shall attempt to reconcile the issues at a meeting with all concerned parties and any representatives they choose to assist them.

2. If the parties reach an agreement through mediation, the terms of the agreement shall be put in writing, approved by the administrator and signed and verified by the complainant and respondent. This document shall be for mediation purposes only and shall not be used as an admission of guilt by any party that the law has been violated.

3. If the administrator determines that there is not probable cause to believe that the alleged discriminatory act took place, he/she shall take no further action in the matter.

4. If mediation of the issue fails, or the administrator determines that mediation is not a viable solution, then he or she must notify both the complainant and the respondent of the failure to conciliate. If the administrator determines that the alleged violation cannot be resolved, the administrator will proceed with the investigation of probable cause.

III. Additional Remedies

The procedures outlined in the ordinance are intended to provide an avenue to mediation for persons who believe they have been discriminated against in a housing-related situation. All other remedies provided by the laws of the State of Florida and the Constitution of the United States still apply whether or not a person seeks to go through this local process. Persons who are dissatisfied with this process or wish to file a further complaint may do so at the Florida State Commission on Human Relations which will initiate its own investigation and processing procedure.

Also, you can file a complaint with any of the following:

Florida Commission on Human Relations
4075 Esplanade Way #110
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
850-488-7082

Atlanta Regional Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO)
U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
Five Points Plaza, 40 Marietta Street, 16th Floor
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-2806
404-331-5140 or 1-800-440-8091

How to file a complaint: Contact Leon County's Fair Housing Administrator, Shington Lamy at (850) 606-1900

Housing Discrimination Information and Complaint Form (Click Here)