Broward County added source of income to its list of protected categories in the County’s human rights ordinance last December to very little fanfare. This had the consequence of making the refusal to accept section 8 vouchers a putative violation of the ordinance. A lawyer who had allegedly filed 60 cookie cutter disability lawsuits in the Tampa area, has now struck in Broward with 46 lawsuits, according to The Real Deal, against realtors and landlords who stated that section 8 vouchers were not accepted in their listings. The realtors claim they aren’t the ones discriminating, it is their clients who state that they don’t take section 8. Nevertheless, the ordinance appears to make it a violation for publishing a discriminatory listing. All of the lawsuits have the same plaintiff, Christopher Benjamin. ABC News reported that all of the Tampa Cases settled, with the lawyer raking in $5000 per complaint. The realtors in Broward said they consider this be be a shakedown at an emergency meeting at the Board today.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Board of Realtors has updated its listing service to prohibit any commentary regarding section 8 and plans to urge the County Commission to revisit the ordinance. Apparently, only one law firm , Kaye, Bender and Rembaum, saw this coming, advising in their blog on February 7, 2018 ”
Of particular note in all of the foregoing is the extension of a protected classification to recipients of Section 8 Housing vouchers. As “financial condition” and/or “source of income” has not previously been a protected classification (and is still not one under State and Federal laws), it now has such protection in Broward County. Board members in Broward County reviewing prospective leasing applications which were previously denied will need to be mindful of this change. If there is ever a question regarding the status of a protected classification, or whether or not the board may disapprove an application for sale or lease, the board should consult with its qualified counsel before making a decision.”
In the meantime at least 46 realtors have 20 days to respond to the law suits and they are not happy.