The Phoenix Flyer

FL bill that helps victims of housing discrimination passes in Senate committee

By: - December 9, 2019 5:04 pm
State Capitol

The 2021 Florida Legislature convenes March 2 under COVID-19 restrictions. Here, the working Capitol appears behind the Historic Capitol Museum. Credit: Colin Hackley

People who claim they’ve been discriminated against in housing would have another way to fix the problem, under legislation moving through the Florida Legislature.

The bill, SB 374, passed unanimously in a Senate committee Monday, would help alleged victims of housing discrimination to pursue a civil lawsuit.

Sen. Darryl Rouson, who represents parts of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, presented the legislation Monday to the Senate Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability.

The proposed bill will have to pass in the full House and Senate in the 2020 legislative session that begins Jan. 14.  Gov. Ron DeSantis would also have to approve it.

Rouson didn’t have any arguments by committee members except for one question by a lawmaker: “What are we trying to accomplish?”

“You don’t have to exhaust (an) administrative remedy to file a [civil] suit…” Rouson said.

The bill amends Florida law and to make it clear that a person has rights to access the court, Rouson said.

The bill summary states that it would “allow a person alleging housing discrimination under the Florida Fair Housing Act (FFHA) to file a civil action regardless of whether the aggrieved person has exhausted his or her administrative remedies.”

That would include someone filing a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations.

A similar bill was sponsored last session by a Democratic state representative in the House, but it wasn’t approved.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.