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Owner raises question about discrimination

April 8, 2011

Q: My husband and I live in a condominium community that is fairly small and very close-knit. We have put our condo, the only property we own, on the market because we plan to move to assisted living next year One man looked at our unit last week but he seemed to be an unsavory character with long blond hair, bleary eyes and a loud motorcycle. My neighbors have asked us not to sell to him. I don't think we're allowed to discriminate? Are we?

A: Since Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, it has been a federal crime to discriminate in the sale of property on the basis of religion, sex, race or national origin. Florida's anti-discrimination statute also includes discriminating against handicapped persons and persons with HIV. An amendment to the Civil Rights Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1988 that bans discrimination against families with children. Designated senior living facilities are exempt from this.

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1968, any policy that has a discriminatory effect is illegal. Even if your intent is not to discriminate, a policy such as requiring a certain income level to rent an apartment that has the effect of discriminating is prohibited.

In 1992, a Washing-ton, D.C., jury awarded $850,000 to civil right groups who sued a developer who only used caucasian models in rental ads. As a result, The Washington Post now requires that 25 percent of the models in advertisements placed in their papers must be African-American.

This law does not apply to single-family homes if "the owner owns three or less; no real estate agent or discriminatory advertisement is used; the person who owns the home does not own any interest in more than three homes at one time and if the owner hasn't sold the unit more than once in the last 24 months."

It does not seem that your unsavory biker falls into any of the protected categories covered. Un-less your condominium association has a policy that results in discrimination, you as a single-property owner can sell to whomever you would like. Should this become a real issue, seek the advice of an attorney.

Attorney Sylvia Heldreth is a Certified Specialist in Real Estate Law. Her office is located at 1215 Miramar St. in Cape Coral.

This article is not intended as specific legal advice to anyone and is based upon facts that change from time to time. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting upon any matter involving the law.



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