BY JOSEPH CORDOVA
In the past year — as moratoriums on eviction have been lifted and resources for assistance have become more limited — evictions have increased, and affordable-housing opportunities have decreased.
While eviction notices create an urgent need for solution, many tenants are unaware that other injustices may be impacting their lives, as well.
The federal Fair Housing Act, and its state and local companion laws, protect tenants and home-seekers from being denied housing based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or familial status. This includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
What is even more important to understand is that it does not matter what race or religion you are, or what disability you may have, because all are protected.
Fair-housing protections prevent a housing provider or landlord from using one of these characteristics as the reason to deny you housing, or as the reason to treat you differently from other tenants or applicants.
If the reason for an eviction, raised rent, or decision not to renew a lease is because of one of these seven protected characteristics, fair-housing laws apply, and violations can be met with severe punishments.
As we assist our families and friends, or as we ourselves try to navigate an eviction notice or urgent need to move, consider all of the details and interactions with your housing provider.
Often, we do not realize that we’ve been discriminated against until much later, when we reflect upon our experiences.
Red flags to look out for include comments about someone’s accent, blaming children for common wear and tear in a unit, phrases such as “people like you,” attempts to convince you that you may be happier in a different neighborhood, or seeing other tenants enjoy benefits and good treatment that you were denied.
Identifying discrimination while it is happening can be a key factor in defending your rights to housing. If a landlord or housing provider uses a protected characteristic against you as a reason for eviction, this may serve as a proper defense in your eviction proceedings.
To learn more about the Fair Housing Act and your protections, visit www.floridalegal.org/fairhousing.
— Cordova, an attorney, is a project manager for the Fair Housing Education & Outreach Initiative of Florida Legal Services. He lives in Palm Coast, but his practice has an added emphasis on the towns of DeLand, DeLeon Springs and Pierson. He has hosted activities on the topics of law and leadership at Taylor Middle-High School in Pierson and McInnis Elementary School in DeLeon Springs.