Broward County Revised Ordinances to Create New Protected Classifications in the Housing Arena

The Broward County Board of Commissioners has amended the County Ordinances regarding discrimination in housing within the County to add additional classifications of individuals who are protected from housing discrimination under the Code. Effective December 6, 2017, Sections 16½-2(a)(2), 16½-3(p) of the Broward Code added “veteran or service member status, lawful source of income, or being the victim of dating violence, domestic violence or stalking” to those who are protected in the sale and leasing of real property within the County.

Section 16½-3 provided further definitions of these classifications to be the following:

Lawful source of income – “the origin or cause of a legal gain or recurrent benefit, often measured in money or currency, including, but not limited to, income derived from social security, supplemental security income, child support, alimony, veteran’s benefits, disability benefits, unemployment, pension and retirement benefits, an annuity, a gift, an inheritance, the sale or pledge of or interest in property, or any form of federal, state, or local public or housing assistance or subsidy, including Housing Choice Voucher Program or ‘Section 8′ vouchers, whether such income is received directly or indirectly by the renter or purchaser and even if such income includes additional federal, state, or local requirements.”

Service member status – “the state of serving on active duty in the armed forces of the United States, including the Reserves and National Guard.”

Veteran status – “the state of having served in any branch of the armed forces of the United States, including the Reserves and National Guard, and having been discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable as defined under federal law.”

Victim of dating violence – “a person who has been subjected to acts or threats of violence, not including acts of self-defense, during the course of a significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature, committed by another person under the following circumstances:

(1)  The nature of the relationship was characterized by the expectation of affection or sexual involvement between the individuals; and

(2)  The frequency and type of interaction between the individuals was on a continuous basis during the course of the relationship.

This subsection does not include violence between individuals involved in a casual acquaintanceship or individuals who have engaged only in ordinary fraternization in a business or social context.”

Victim of domestic violence – “a family or household member who has been subjected to acts or threats of violence, not including acts of self-defense, by another family or household member. For purposes of this section, ‘family or household member’ includes:

(1) A current or former spouse of the victim;

(2) A person with whom the victim shares a child in common;

(3) A person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim; or

(4) A person who is or has continually or at regular intervals lived in the same household as the victim.”

Victim of stalking – “a victim of acts that constitute or are deemed under state law to be willful, malicious, and repeated following, harassing, or cyberstalking of another person, or the making of a credible threat with the intent to place that victim in reasonable fear of death or bodily injury of the person, or the person’s child, sibling, spouse, parent, or dependent. The term ‘cyberstalking’ means engaging in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.”

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.