Broward County Florida HRC Orders Payment of $29,000 for Age Discrimination in Housing

The Broward County, Florida, Human Relations Board has applied its local ordinance prohibiting age discrimination to a housing discrimination case. It ordered a condo association to pay $14,000 in damages and $15,000 in attorney fees.

Their ordinance includes an exemption for housing for older persons similar to the federal Fair Housing Act. The damages went to a real estate agent who lost a commission on the sale, to a prospective tenant who was under age 55, and to the unit owners who were willing to sell to the under 55 year old buyer but were prevented from selling.

The three different complainants filed against the Las Vistas in Inverrary Condominium Association. All three cases were consolidated because they had a common issue of whether the condo association qualified under the "housing for older persons" exemption.

The Human Rights Board concluded that the Condo satisfied only one prong of the three prong test for the exemption. They had "at least 80 percent of the units occupied by at least one person 55 years of age or older per unit." But they failed the requirement for "significant facilities and services specifically designed to meet the physical or social needs of older persons." And they did not "demonstrate an intent to provide housing for persons 55 years of age or older."

The Board said there had been "no significant changes in facilities, services, or activities" at Las Vistas since enactment of the 55-and-over law. They found that Las Vistas offered a variety of activities but "most of them appear to be normal social activities that adults of all ages would enjoy."

The Human Rights panel concluded that the condo association did not qualify under the "housing for older persons" exemption of the County Human Rights Act and "by rejecting Meilich and the prospective buyer because of their ages, violated the age discrimination prohibition of the Act."

They found that complainant Meilich, as a result of being rejected as a tenant, suffered damages of $3,745. The Board ordered payment of $9,326 to Meilich's attorney and $5,655 to the attorney for Wersted and Sechrest.