The Fair Housing Act prohibits a person from refusing to negotiate for the sale or rental of an apartment or house, or to otherwise make a housing unit unavailable because of race, disability, gender, national origin, or familial status. Section 3604(a); R.C. 4112.02(H). The Fair Housing Act is a broad legislative plan designed to eliminate all traces of discrimination within the housing field. Marr v. Riffe, 503 F.2d 735, 740 (6th Cir. 1974). The Act was enacted to ensure the removal of artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers when those barriers operate invidiously to discriminate on the basis of impermissible characteristics. United States v. City of Black Jack, 508 F.2d 1179 (8th Cir. 1974), cert. denied, 422 U.S. 1042.
The Act provides that it shall be unlawful “[t]o refuse to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer, or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling because of [race, disability, gender or familial status. . . or . . .To make, print, publish, or cause to be made, printed or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on” the protected classifications. In addition, the statutes also state “[i]t shall be unlawful to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of . . . any right granted or protected by [the statute]”.
Familial status effectively means that there can be no discrimination against families with children. The family status and disability protections, as well as racial preferences, are the areas in which most housing discrimination issues occur.
Fair Housing Acts largely have the same procedural issues as employment statutes, with much of the earlier housing case law coming directly from employment cases. Discrimination is prohibited in renting and buying homes, from the negotiation or viewing period all the way through to the time of lease or purchase documentation. See, Grant v. Papiernik, 136 Ohio App.3d 233, 736 N.E.2d 484 (Ohio App. 11 Dist. 1999). Fair housing organizations have standing under the Fair Housing Act and not only provide valuable testing evidence, but also promote a public interest in ensuring the availability of fair housing in the future. See, Housing Opportunities Made Equal v. Cincinnati Enquirer, 943 F.2d 644 (6th Cir., 1991); Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman, 455 U.S. 363 (1982). The U.S. Supreme Court held that such an organization could sue for two separate types of injuries: diversion of the organization’s resources and frustration of the organization’s mission. City of Chicago v. Matchmaker Real Estate Sales Center, 982 F.2d 1086 (7th Circ. 1992).
General compensatory damages and punitive damages are available in fair housing cases. Punitive damages are appropriate in cases of “reckless or callous disregard for the plaintiff’s rights, [or] intentional violations of federal law. . .” U.S. v. Hurdelbrink, 981 F.2d 916, (7th Cir. 1992). In addition, punitive damages are commonly awarded in fair housing cases. Asbury v. Brougham, 866 F.2d 1276 (10th Cir. 1989), ($7,500 compensatory damages awarded, $50,000 punitive damages awarded in rental housing/race discrimination case); City of Chicago v. Matchmaker Real Est., supra, (punitive damages of $102,000 awarded in racial steering case).