Source of Income Victory

HOPE would like to congratulate Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. (LSGMI) and Jeff Hearne, LSGMI Director of Litigation, on the successful resolution of a source of income housing discrimination case. LSGMI filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program participant in Miami-Dade County Court against NJZ Enterprises, Inc. (owner), Renters’ Paradise Realty, Inc. (management company), and Wilfredo Rodriguez (realtor associate for Renters’ Paradise). The lawsuit was based on source of income, after the complainant was denied an opportunity to apply to rent a property because of his status as a voucher holder.

The lawsuit also included a claim regarding discriminatory advertising based on the use of “NO SECTION 8” when advertising apartments for rent. Source of income is a protected class under the Miami-Dade County Human Rights Ordinance and includes “the lawful, verifiable income paid directly to a tenant or paid to a representative of a tenant, including, but not limited to, Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Supplemental Security Income, Social Security, pensions and other retirement benefits.”

Renters’ Paradise generated and posted several rental ads on Craigslist that said “NO SECTION 8.” Mr. Rodriquez posted multiple ads on behalf of owner, NJZ. Despite the discriminatory language, the voucher holder called the realtor associate regarding the property, but the associate refused to consider the voucher holder as an applicant because of his Section 8 participation.

The voucher holder initially filed an administrative complaint with Miami-Dade County’s Office of Human Rights and Fair Employment Practices based on source of income discrimination. Once the complaint was filed, Renters’ Paradise was on notice that source of income was an illegal basis of discrimination, yet they continued to post at least twenty-seven ads on Craigslist with the discriminatory language. Renters’ Paradise posted these ads through a foreign-based company that it employed.

The case was settled in August of 2018 and included monetary relief for the voucher holder and mutual agreement to a permanent injunction prohibiting NJZ Enterprises, Renters’ Paradise Realty, Inc. and their officers, agents, servants, and employees from discriminating based upon source of income and publishing advertisements using the words “No Section 8” or similar language.

Discriminatory rental listings excluding Section 8 voucher holders from housing opportunities continue to be placed on many advertising platforms serving Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Many of these listings have been placed by real estate professionals. Although property owners may originate illegal exclusions, real estate professionals are responsible for the discriminatory ads and for discrimination in residential real estate-related transactions based on protected status. They should know better.