An apartment resident who feels they have been treated unfairly sometimes files a housing discrimination complaint against our clients. Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 is called the “Fair Housing Act.” This federal law prohibits discrimination by a landlord on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability.
All states and some local cities and counties have adopted substantially similar state laws or municipal ordinances based on the Fair Housing Act. However, there is a significant difference between something the tenant considers to be “unfair,” as opposed to conduct that is truly discriminatory.
The attorneys at Fowler, Hein Cheatwood & Williams, P.A. have a deep understanding of the legal issues surrounding housing discrimination complaints and how to advise and resolve such claims. Such claims may be filed as an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or with state enforcement agencies such as the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity, Florida Human Rights Commission, South Carolina Human Affairs Commission, and North Carolina Human Rights Commission. Other times, the unhappy tenant or rental applicant may retain an attorney to file a civil rights action in a federal or state court. Often, such fair housing complaints are ongoing in conjunction with a separate dispossessory case, resulting in even more complex legal issues and the need to resolve both matters simultaneously.
Our clients are obligated to cooperate in the investigation of administrative complaints and discovery procedures of civil lawsuits. We review significant amounts of documents, resident files, and operational policies to demonstrate our client’s lack of discriminatory intent or effect.
Rental applicants and residents who are unhappy with a management decision often allege the apartment community discriminated by: denying a rental application; terminating the lease; mishandling a dispute with other tenants; and failure to make a reasonable accommodation or allow a modification of the apartment due to a disability.
A significant number of Fair Housing complaints are filed alleging discrimination because of a disability. Often non-lawyers are more familiar with the federal law known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that prohibits discrimination in public places such as the apartment management leasing office which are open to the public. While the ADA has little applicability to most of the apartment community, non-lawyers often confuse the two laws.
Under the Fair Housing Act, any employee of the apartment management company or apartment owner may face individual or personal liability separate from that of the management corporation or ownership entity.
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