Legislation Proposed on Housing Discrimination
Legislation has been introduced in the Ohio House that would prohibit housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation with respect to employment and housing accommodations. Although the proposed legislation does not amend Ohio’s Civil Rights Law to add sexual orientation as a protected class, it does contain many provisions that mirror the Ohio’s Civil Rights Law. As a reminder, Ohio’s protected classes are race, color, religion, sex, ancestry, national origin, familial status, disability and military status.
If enacted, the law would prohibit a person from refusing to sell, transfer, assign, rent, lease, sublease, or finance housing accommodations, refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of housing accommodations or otherwise deny or make unavailable housing accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation. The law extends to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in obtaining loans or other financial assistance to acquire or repair a home, the terms and conditions of insurance, advertising and restrictive covenants.
Similar to Ohio’s current blockbusting prohibitions, a person cannot represent a change has occurred or is about to occur with respect to the sexual orientation composition of the block, neighborhood or area, resulting in lower property values, increase in criminal behavior or decline in school quality.
For real estate professionals, a person cannot deny access based on sexual orientation to membership or participation in a multiple listing service, brokerage professional organization or any other facility related to the business of selling or renting housing accommodations. A person cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in the selling, brokering or appraising of real property. Last, the legislation requires all real estate brokerage agency agreements to contain a statement that it is illegal to discriminate in housing accommodations because of sexual orientation.
Unlike Ohio’s Civil Rights Law, the proposed legislation includes exceptions for an organized religious body or a nonprofit charitable or educational organization. One of these entities may limit or give a preference to a person of a particular religion or sexual orientation in the sale or rental of housing accommodations.
The legislation permits a person who believes they have been the subject of discrimination based on sexual orientation to bring a lawsuit in the court of common pleas in the county in which the discrimination occurred. If the court or jury finds that unlawful discrimination occurred, the plaintiff may be awarded actual damages, reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs and other litigation expenses. The court may also issue injunctions and restraining orders.
H.B. 537 was introduced on April 28, 2016, and is sponsored by Representative Hays. The bill has been assigned to the Community and Family Advancement Committee and had its first hearing on May 10, 2016. More information and the bill text can be found here.