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Discrimination and property rentals

Penalties for Housing Discrimination

The Fair Housing Act outlines requirements for fairness in the rental or sale of most housing units. At the federal level, housing discrimination is investigated and handled by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.

If a property owner or manager is found guilty of housing discrimination, the fine can be up to $16,000 for the first offense. Up to $65,000 can be fined for a third offense that occurs during a seven-year period. The defendant can be required to pay court fees and attorney costs. If the case is taken to a federal court, punitive damages can also be charged.

In addition to these fines, a party that is found guilty of discrimination may have to compensate the victim for personal damages. Relief may also include the requirement to make the housing available to the party that suffered discrimination.

States and local jurisdictions may impose fines and punishments for housing violations. For example, Lee County, Florida may take civil action with a fine of up to $11,500 on the first violation. In addition, if a real estate agent is involved, discrimination can result in the loss of the license.

A Housing Discrimination Complaint Form should be filed with HUD if you feel your rights have been violated. Property owners and property managers should be aware of the regulations that apply to properties they are selling or renting. Your real estate agent or broker can also guide you when it comes to fair housing rules.

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