Bill Text: FL S0374 | 2020 | Regular Session | Enrolled

Bill Title: Housing Discrimination

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Democrat 1-0)

Status: (Passed) 2020-09-08 - Chapter No. 2020-164 [S0374 Detail]

Download: Florida-2020-S0374-Enrolled.html
       2020 Legislature                           SB 374, 1st Engrossed
    2         An act relating to housing discrimination; creating s.
    3         712.065, F.S.; defining the term “discriminatory
    4         restriction”; providing that discriminatory
    5         restrictions are unlawful, unenforceable, and declared
    6         null and void; providing that certain discriminatory
    7         restrictions are extinguished and severed from
    8         recorded title transactions; specifying that the
    9         recording of certain notices does not reimpose or
   10         preserve a discriminatory restriction; providing
   11         requirements for a parcel owner to remove a
   12         discriminatory restriction from a covenant or
   13         restriction; providing a directive to the Division of
   14         Law Revision; amending s. 760.07, F.S.; removing
   15         housing discrimination as a cause of action for
   16         certain relief and damages stemming from violations of
   17         the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992; amending s.
   18         760.34, F.S.; revising the conditions under which an
   19         aggrieved person may commence a civil action in any
   20         appropriate court against a specified respondent to
   21         enforce specified rights; providing that the aggrieved
   22         person does not need to pursue certain other remedies
   23         before commencing a civil action; making technical
   24         changes; amending s. 760.35, F.S.; authorizing, rather
   25         than requiring, a civil action to commence within a
   26         specified period after an alleged discriminatory
   27         housing practice; authorizing an aggrieved person to
   28         commence a civil action regardless of certain
   29         circumstances; prohibiting an aggrieved person from
   30         filing a specified action in certain circumstances;
   31         providing an exception; prohibiting an aggrieved
   32         person from commencing a specified civil action if an
   33         administrative law judge has commenced a hearing on
   34         the record on the allegation; making technical
   35         changes; providing an effective date.
   37  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   39         Section 1. Section 712.065, Florida Statutes, is created to
   40  read:
   41         712.065 Extinguishment of discriminatory restrictions.—
   42         (1) As used in this section, the term “discriminatory
   43  restriction” means a provision in a title transaction recorded
   44  in this state which restricts the ownership, occupancy, or use
   45  of any real property in this state by any natural person on the
   46  basis of a characteristic that has been held, or is held after
   47  the effective date of this act, by the United States Supreme
   48  Court or the Florida Supreme Court to be protected against
   49  discrimination under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United
   50  States Constitution or under s. 2, Art. I of the State
   51  Constitution, including race, color, national origin, religion,
   52  gender, or physical disability.
   53         (2) A discriminatory restriction is not enforceable in this
   54  state, and all discriminatory restrictions contained in any
   55  title transaction recorded in this state are unlawful, are
   56  unenforceable, and are declared null and void. Any
   57  discriminatory restriction contained in a previously recorded
   58  title transaction is extinguished and severed from the recorded
   59  title transaction and the remainder of the title transaction
   60  remains enforceable and effective. The recording of any notice
   61  preserving or protecting interests or rights pursuant to s.
   62  712.06 does not reimpose or preserve any discriminatory
   63  restriction that is extinguished under this section.
   64         (3) Upon request of a parcel owner, a discriminatory
   65  restriction appearing in a covenant or restriction affecting the
   66  parcel may be removed from the covenant or restriction by an
   67  amendment approved by a majority vote of the board of directors
   68  of the respective property owners’ association or an owners’
   69  association in which all owners may voluntarily join,
   70  notwithstanding any other requirements for approval of an
   71  amendment of the covenant or restriction. Unless the amendment
   72  also changes other provisions of the covenant or restriction,
   73  the recording of an amendment removing a discriminatory
   74  restriction does not constitute a title transaction occurring
   75  after the root of title for purposes of s. 712.03(4).
   76         Section 2. The Division of Law Revision is directed to
   77  replace the phrase “the effective date of this act” wherever it
   78  occurs in this act with the date the act becomes a law.
   79         Section 3. Section 760.07, Florida Statutes, is amended to
   80  read:
   81         760.07 Remedies for unlawful discrimination.—Any violation
   82  of any Florida statute that makes making unlawful discrimination
   83  because of race, color, religion, gender, pregnancy, national
   84  origin, age, handicap, or marital status in the areas of
   85  education, employment, housing, or public accommodations gives
   86  rise to a cause of action for all relief and damages described
   87  in s. 760.11(5), unless greater damages are expressly provided
   88  for. If the statute prohibiting unlawful discrimination provides
   89  an administrative remedy, the action for equitable relief and
   90  damages provided for in this section may be initiated only after
   91  the plaintiff has exhausted his or her administrative remedy.
   92  The term “public accommodations” does not include lodge halls or
   93  other similar facilities of private organizations which are made
   94  available for public use occasionally or periodically. The right
   95  to trial by jury is preserved in any case in which the plaintiff
   96  is seeking actual or punitive damages.
   97         Section 4. Section 760.34, Florida Statutes, is amended to
   98  read:
   99         760.34 Enforcement.—
  100         (1) Any person who claims to have been injured by a
  101  discriminatory housing practice or who believes that he or she
  102  will be injured by a discriminatory housing practice that is
  103  about to occur may file a complaint with the commission.
  104  Complaints shall be in writing and shall contain such
  105  information and be in such form as the commission requires. Upon
  106  receipt of such a complaint, the commission shall furnish a copy
  107  to the person or persons who allegedly committed the
  108  discriminatory housing practice or are about to commit the
  109  alleged discriminatory housing practice. Within 100 days after
  110  receiving a complaint, or within 100 days after the expiration
  111  of any period of reference under subsection (3), the commission
  112  shall investigate the complaint and give notice in writing to
  113  the aggrieved person aggrieved whether it intends to resolve it.
  114  If the commission decides to resolve the complaint, it shall
  115  proceed to try to eliminate or correct the alleged
  116  discriminatory housing practice by informal methods of
  117  conference, conciliation, and persuasion. Insofar as possible,
  118  conciliation meetings shall be held in the cities or other
  119  localities where the discriminatory housing practices allegedly
  120  occurred. Nothing said or done in the course of such informal
  121  endeavors may be made public or used as evidence in a subsequent
  122  proceeding under ss. 760.20-760.37 without the written consent
  123  of the persons concerned. Any employee of the commission who
  124  makes public any information in violation of this provision is
  125  guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as
  126  provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
  127         (2) Any person who files a complaint under subsection (1)
  128  must do so be filed within 1 year after the alleged
  129  discriminatory housing practice occurred. The complaint must be
  130  in writing and shall state the facts upon which the allegations
  131  of a discriminatory housing practice are based. A complaint may
  132  be reasonably and fairly amended at any time. A respondent may
  133  file an answer to the complaint against him or her and, with the
  134  leave of the commission, which shall be granted whenever it
  135  would be reasonable and fair to do so, may amend his or her
  136  answer at any time. Both the complaint and the answer must shall
  137  be verified.
  138         (3) If Wherever a local fair housing law provides rights
  139  and remedies for alleged discriminatory housing practices which
  140  are substantially equivalent to the rights and remedies provided
  141  in ss. 760.20-760.37, the commission shall notify the
  142  appropriate local agency of any complaint filed under ss.
  143  760.20-760.37 which appears to constitute a violation of the
  144  local fair housing law, and the commission shall take no further
  145  action with respect to such complaint if the local law
  146  enforcement official has, within 30 days after from the date the
  147  alleged offense was brought to his or her attention, commenced
  148  proceedings in the matter. In no event shall the commission take
  149  further action unless it certifies that in its judgment, under
  150  the circumstances of the particular case, the protection of the
  151  rights of the parties or the interests of justice require such
  152  action.
  153         (4) If, within 180 days after a complaint is filed with the
  154  commission or within 180 days after expiration of any period of
  155  reference under subsection (3), the commission has been unable
  156  to obtain voluntary compliance with ss. 760.20-760.37, The
  157  aggrieved person aggrieved may commence a civil action in any
  158  appropriate court against the respondent named in the complaint
  159  or petition for an administrative determination under pursuant
  160  to s. 760.35 to enforce the rights granted or protected by ss.
  161  760.20-760.37 and is not required to petition for an
  162  administrative hearing or exhaust administrative remedies before
  163  commencing such action. If, as a result of its investigation
  164  under subsection (1), the commission finds there is reasonable
  165  cause to believe that a discriminatory housing practice has
  166  occurred, at the request of the aggrieved person aggrieved, the
  167  Attorney General may bring an action in the name of the state on
  168  behalf of the aggrieved person to enforce the provisions of ss.
  169  760.20-760.37.
  170         (5) In any proceeding brought under pursuant to this
  171  section or s. 760.35, the burden of proof is on the complainant.
  172         (6) If Whenever an action filed in court under pursuant to
  173  this section or s. 760.35 comes to trial, the commission shall
  174  immediately terminate all efforts to obtain voluntary
  175  compliance.
  176         (7)(a) The commission may institute a civil action in any
  177  appropriate court if it is unable to obtain voluntary compliance
  178  with ss. 760.20-760.37. The commission does need not have to
  179  petition petitioned for an administrative hearing or exhaust
  180  exhausted its administrative remedies before prior to bringing a
  181  civil action.
  182         (b) The court may impose the following fines for each
  183  violation of ss. 760.20-760.37:
  184         1. Up to $10,000, if the respondent has not previously been
  185  found guilty of a violation of ss. 760.20-760.37.
  186         2. Up to $25,000, if the respondent has been found guilty
  187  of one prior violation of ss. 760.20-760.37 within the preceding
  188  5 years.
  189         3. Up to $50,000, if the respondent has been found guilty
  190  of two or more violations of ss. 760.20-760.37 within the
  191  preceding 7 years.
  193  In imposing a fine under this paragraph, the court shall
  194  consider the nature and circumstances of the violation, the
  195  degree of culpability, the history of prior violations of ss.
  196  760.20-760.37, the financial circumstances of the respondent,
  197  and the goal of deterring future violations of ss. 760.20
  198  760.37.
  199         (c) The court shall award reasonable attorney attorney’s
  200  fees and costs to the commission in any action in which the
  201  commission prevails.
  202         (8) Any local agency certified as substantially equivalent
  203  may institute a civil action in any appropriate court, including
  204  circuit court, if it is unable to obtain voluntary compliance
  205  with the local fair housing law. The agency does need not have
  206  to petition petitioned for an administrative hearing or exhaust
  207  exhausted its administrative remedies before prior to bringing a
  208  civil action. The court may impose fines as provided in the
  209  local fair housing law.
  210         Section 5. Section 760.35, Florida Statutes, is amended to
  211  read:
  212         760.35 Civil actions and relief; administrative
  213  procedures.—
  214         (1) An aggrieved person may commence a civil action shall
  215  be commenced no later than 2 years after an alleged
  216  discriminatory housing practice has occurred. However, the court
  217  shall continue a civil case brought under pursuant to this
  218  section or s. 760.34 from time to time before bringing it to
  219  trial if the court believes that the conciliation efforts of the
  220  commission or local agency are likely to result in satisfactory
  221  settlement of the discriminatory housing practice complained of
  222  in the complaint made to the commission or to the local agency
  223  and which practice forms the basis for the action in court. Any
  224  sale, encumbrance, or rental consummated before prior to the
  225  issuance of any court order issued under the authority of ss.
  226  760.20-760.37 and involving a bona fide purchaser, encumbrancer,
  227  or tenant without actual notice of the existence of the filing
  228  of a complaint or civil action under the provisions of ss.
  229  760.20-760.37 is shall not be affected.
  230         (2)An aggrieved person may commence a civil action under
  231  this section regardless of whether a complaint has been filed
  232  under s. 760.34(1) and regardless of the status of any such
  233  complaint. If the commission has obtained a conciliation
  234  agreement with the consent of an aggrieved person under s.
  235  760.36, the aggrieved person may not file any action under this
  236  section regarding the alleged discriminatory housing practice
  237  that forms the basis for the complaint except for the purpose of
  238  enforcing the terms of the conciliation agreement.
  239         (3)An aggrieved person may not commence a civil action
  240  under this section regarding an alleged discriminatory housing
  241  practice if an administrative law judge has commenced a hearing
  242  on the record on the allegation.
  243         (4)(2) If the court finds that a discriminatory housing
  244  practice has occurred, it shall issue an order prohibiting the
  245  practice and providing affirmative relief from the effects of
  246  the practice, including injunctive and other equitable relief,
  247  actual and punitive damages, and reasonable attorney attorney’s
  248  fees and costs.
  249         (5)(a)(3)(a) If the commission is unable to obtain
  250  voluntary compliance with ss. 760.20-760.37 or has reasonable
  251  cause to believe that a discriminatory practice has occurred:
  252         1. The commission may institute an administrative
  253  proceeding under chapter 120; or
  254         2. The aggrieved person aggrieved may request
  255  administrative relief under chapter 120 within 30 days after
  256  receiving notice that the commission has concluded its
  257  investigation under s. 760.34.
  258         (b) Administrative hearings shall be conducted under
  259  pursuant to ss. 120.569 and 120.57(1). The respondent must be
  260  served written notice by certified mail. If the administrative
  261  law judge finds that a discriminatory housing practice has
  262  occurred or is about to occur, he or she shall issue a
  263  recommended order to the commission prohibiting the practice and
  264  recommending affirmative relief from the effects of the
  265  practice, including quantifiable damages and reasonable attorney
  266  attorney’s fees and costs. The commission may adopt, reject, or
  267  modify a recommended order only as provided under s. 120.57(1).
  268  Judgment for the amount of damages and costs assessed pursuant
  269  to a final order by the commission may be entered in any court
  270  having jurisdiction thereof and may be enforced as any other
  271  judgment.
  272         (c) The district courts of appeal may, upon the filing of
  273  appropriate notices of appeal, review final orders of the
  274  commission under pursuant to s. 120.68. Costs or fees may not be
  275  assessed against the commission in any appeal from a final order
  276  issued by the commission under this subsection. Unless
  277  specifically ordered by the court, the commencement of an appeal
  278  does not suspend or stay an order of the commission.
  279         (d) This subsection does not prevent any other legal or
  280  administrative action provided by law.
  281         Section 6. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.