3 Things to Know About the Fair Housing Act

Owning a rental property in Jacksonville, Florida can be rewarding, no doubt! But with property ownership comes a myriad of responsibilities.

As a landlord, for instance, you become responsible for observing federal, state and local laws when it comes to managing the various aspects of your property.

One key aspect of property management is the leasing process, which includes anything from rental advertisement to tenant placement. Sadly, it’s here that many Jacksonville landlords, both first-time landlords and experienced landlords, find themselves making serious mistakes.

A landlord, for instance, may unintentionally find himself discriminating against a tenant by asking them:

  • How old are you?
  • Are you married/divorced?
  • Do you go to the church in this neighborhood?
  • Where do your kids go to school?
  • What is your first language?
  • Are you White or Hispanic?

These questions are a violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. A prospective tenant can sue you for discrimination if you ask any of them.

What is the Fair Housing Act?

The goal of the Fair Housing Act was to put an end to widespread discriminatory practices in housing that existed at the time. The Act made it illegal to deny the renting, selling or buying of a house based on seven protected classes.

The law was passed in 1968, just one week after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Those who challenged the race-based housing patterns were often met with hostility, resistance, and even violence.

What Classes Are Protected Under the Fair Housing Act?

The Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 only covered five protected classes. That is sex, religion, race, national origin, and color.


Two years later, Congress made an amendment to the Act that expanded the law to include two more protected classes – familial status and disability.

Does Everyone Have to Follow the Fair Housing Act?

Now, not everyone has to follow the Fair Housing Act. The Act exempts the following groups:

  • Members-only organizations or private clubs
  • Single-family homes that are sold or rented without a real estate broker
  • Owner-occupied homes that have at most four units

Who Enforces the Fair Housing Act?

The federal executive department with the statutory authority to administer and enforce the Fair Housing Act is the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

What are the few Common Examples of Housing Discrimination?

  • Harassing tenants in connection with housing accommodations
  • Zoning laws that have an unfair effect on protected classes
  • Steering tenants to a certain neighborhood
  • Refusing to permit reasonable modifications for a person living with disabilities
  • Providing inferior conditions, facilities, conditions or privileges in connection to housing
  • Lying about or misrepresenting the availability of housing when it’s indeed available


  • Applying different sale, rental or occupancy terms for different people
  • Refusing to sell, rent or lease housing to an interested tenant or buyer

3 Things Jacksonville Landlords Should Know About the Fair Housing Act

As a landlord, you must be careful not to violate any anti-discrimination housing laws. Under the Act, everyone has the right to equal treatment in housing without discrimination and harassment.

Here are a few things you should keep in mind as you manage your property.

1. Know what classes are additionally protected in Florida.

Besides the 7 protected classes at the federal level, different states may also have laws that include a few more additional classes. In Florida, the following are the additionally protected classes:

  • Age
  • Genetic information
  • Aids/HIV
  • Sickle cell or hemoglobin C trait
  • Military status or service, and
  • Lawful use or lawful product when not at work

2. Know how to advertise your rental property.

Rental advertisement is key to the leasing process. It enables you to expose your Jacksonville income property to as many prospective tenants as possible.

Getting the process right is key. This is especially true when it comes to drafting the rental advertisement.

The following are statements you should avoid when writing your rental ad:

  • “Great for working folks or students.”
  • “Suits mature individual or couple.”
  • “Perfect for female student.”
  • “Suitable for single professional.”
  • “Ideal for quiet couple.”

By using these statements, a tenant may interpret it as you’d prefer some people over others. Consequently, this may deter some tenants from applying because of the fear of being treated unfairly.

As a general rule of thumb, always focus on describing your property rather than your ideal tenant.

3. Know how to screen your Jacksonville, Florida tenants.

Screening helps minimize the chances of landing a potentially problematic tenant. For example, many landlords require that prospective tenants make at least three times the rental price.


By doing so, it helps minimize the chances of renting to a tenant who may have trouble making rent payments in the future.

Other common screening criteria usually include checking the prospective tenant’s creditworthiness, and rental and criminal background.

There is one area that some landlords (and often unintentional) get wrong. This is during the pre-qualification process, where landlords often ask some pre-screening questions.

It’s during this time that a landlord can find him or herself asking a prospective tenant a discriminating question. Such discriminative questions include:

  • Where do your kids go to school?
  • Are you pregnant? I don’t want a baby disturbing the other tenants.
  • I don’t allow animals, so I can’t allow your service dog.
  • Are you disabled?
  • What is your first language?
  • I don’t feel safe renting to a woman on the first floor.
  • There aren’t a lot of temples around here, so I don’t know if you’d fit in.
  • You would love the area. A lot of minorities live here.

To succeed as a landlord in Jacksonville, Florida, it’s imperative that you treat everyone with respect and dignity. Always assume that every prospective tenant looking to rent your property is a secret agent working for HUD.

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