The Office of Fair Housing and Economic Activity (OFHEA) in Florida is an agency dedicated to ensuring that people are protected from housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, handicap, familial status, or religion. These groups are known as protected classes, and it is illegal for real estate agents, developers, property managers, and mortgage lenders to discriminate against any protected class.
The Fair Housing Act was passed at the Federal level in 1968 as a response to widespread discrimination in housing. It prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, familial status, or disability. In Florida, the Office of Fair Housing and Economic Activity is responsible for enforcing this law and ensuring that everyone has equal access to safe and affordable housing.
OFHEA takes claims of housing discrimination very seriously and investigates each complaint thoroughly. If OFHEA determines that discrimination has occurred, they may take legal action against the accused infringer, such as filing a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations or filing a lawsuit in federal court. Through these actions, OFHEA works to ensure that all individuals in protected classes have access to safe and affordable housing.
Types of Housing Discrimination
Real estate agents, developers, property managers, and mortgage lenders have a responsibility to ensure that they do not discriminate against people in protected classes. This means that they cannot refuse to rent or sell housing, falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, rental or sale, or refuse to make a mortgage loan to people in protected classes. If they do, they can face serious consequences, including fines and legal action.
It is important to note that discrimination in housing can take many forms. It can be blatant, such as a real estate agent refusing to show a property to someone because of their race, or more subtle, such as a landlord requiring higher income or credit scores from people in certain protected classes. The Office of Fair Housing and Economic Activity takes all forms of discrimination seriously and will investigate any claims of discrimination. They have the power to issue fines, require training, and even take legal action against those who discriminate.
Fair Housing Education
OFHEA uses education in both a proactive and a punitive way to prevent and address housing discrimination.
In a proactive way, OFHEA uses education to prevent housing discrimination by providing resources, training, and outreach programs to help individuals and organizations understand fair housing laws and promote compliance. For example, OFHEA conducts workshops, training sessions, and outreach events for landlords, real estate agents, property managers, and other housing professionals to educate them about fair housing laws and practices. They also provide educational materials, such as brochures and flyers, that explain fair housing laws and inform people of their rights.
In a punitive way, OFHEA uses education by requiring infringers to take anti-discrimination courses as part of the resolution process. If OFHEA determines that a person or organization has engaged in housing discrimination, they may require the infringer to take anti-discrimination training or education as part of the resolution process. This requirement is designed to educate the infringer about fair housing laws, prevent future discrimination, and ensure compliance with fair housing laws. OFHEA may also require the infringer to develop and implement policies and procedures to prevent discrimination in the future.
“… people are protected from housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, handicap, familial status, or religion.”
The Housing Discrimination Investigation Process
The Florida Office of Fair Housing and Economic Activity (OFHEA) investigates claims of housing discrimination through a multi-step process. When someone files a complaint with OFHEA, they will begin an investigation to determine if there is evidence of discrimination. The steps of the investigation process are as follows:
- Intake: OFHEA staff will speak with the person filing the complaint to get more information about their allegations and gather the necessary information to move forward with the investigation.
- Investigation: OFHEA will conduct an investigation into the allegations of discrimination. This may include interviewing witnesses, reviewing documents, and visiting the property in question.
- Analysis: After gathering all the necessary information, OFHEA will analyze the evidence to determine if there is evidence of discrimination.
- Determination: Based on the evidence gathered, OFHEA will make a determination as to whether or not discrimination occurred.
- Resolution: If OFHEA determines that discrimination occurred, they will take steps to resolve the matter. This may include pursuing legal action against the accused infringer, requiring the accused to provide relief to the victim, or providing education and training to prevent future discrimination.
If the OFHEA determines that housing discrimination has occurred, they have the power to take legal action against the accused infringer. The OFHEA may file a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, which is responsible for enforcing state laws against discrimination. The Commission will then investigate the complaint and hold a hearing to determine whether or not discrimination occurred. If the Commission finds that discrimination did occur, they can order the accused infringer to take corrective action, such as providing compensation to the victim, providing fair housing training to staff, or changing discriminatory policies and practices.
In addition to filing a complaint with the Commission, the OFHEA can also file a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the victim. The lawsuit may seek monetary damages for the victim, as well as injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination.
The Importance of An Attorney
Because many cases involving housing discrimination can involve subtle violations, it is highly recommended to engage an attorney before making accusations against an individual or organization. Retaining experienced legal counsel is essential in housing discrimination cases since the opposing side is highly likely to have legal support — especially if they are a larger entity such as a bank or corporation. Retaining the right law firm vastly improves a party’s chances to receive a favorable outcome. Because of this, smaller parties to a housing discrimination lawsuit would be wise to avoid “going it alone” or representing themselves in these highly contentious cases.
South Florida Law
Whether you are a victim of housing discrimination, or wrongly accused of housing discrimination, the attorney’s of South Florida Law have the experience and knowledge to ensure that justice is done. South Florida Law is known for having a boutique law firm’s attention to detail with big law firm resources to ensure that your case gets all the legal support needed. If you have been victimized by either housing discrimination or false claims of housing discrimination, contact us today via our contact form or by phone at (954) 900-8555.