BEWARE OF TESTERS & KNOW FAIR HOUSING LAWS
There has been a recent wave of lawsuits filed against Realtors® by testers.
There has been a recent wave of lawsuits filed against Realtors® by “testers,” which are groups that call Realtors® just to see if the Realtor® will violate a provision of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), even though the tester has no relationship with the Realtor® and is not interested in buying or renting the listed property. Courts have found that these testers have standing to sue as they have suffered injury.
Recent attention has been placed on the Housing Choice Voucher Program or “Section 8” vouchers. Several municipalities in Florida, including Broward County, have adopted laws prohibiting housing discrimination based on source of income. This means that it is illegal for a housing provider to keep a person out simply because that person is paying for housing with a subsidy or assistance like Section 8, or other benefits programs. If you receive an inquiry from a consumer asking about Section 8 vouchers or any Fair Housing provisions – a best practice response is to inform that caller that they are free to submit an application to lease/offer to purchase the property and that the landlord/seller makes all decisions regarding the lease/purchase of the property. Check your local ordinance for additional details and any relevant exemptions.
This is an evolving issue. Realtors® must be aware of and stay up to date on Fair Housing laws, in addition to the Florida Civil Rights Act, so they don’t face lawsuits.
Source: Florida Realtors®, Broward County, Florida Code of Ordinances, Chapter 16½.