The Palm Beach County Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) has made a determination of reasonable grounds in a dozen cases that Alston Management, Inc., Matthew 25 Ministries and Miracle Park, Inc. (respondent) violated the county’s fair housing ordinance by threatening to evict families with children under the age of 18. This constitutes familial status discrimination as both Palm Beach County’s Fair Housing Ordinance and the federal Fair Housing Act prohibit actions that restrict housing opportunities for families with children under the age of 18 years.
In January 2009, OEO learned that Pelican Lake Village, located near Pahokee, was being leased to a prison ministry forcing out residents with children under age 18. OEO further learned that the management company, Alston Management, Inc., sent a letter to residents indicating that the property was sold to Miracle Park, Inc. as an “adults only community” and if there were children under the age of 18 years old, the resident and children would have to vacate the property before January 1, 2009. The letter went on to say if the resident refused to move or comply with the new owner, the resident would be evicted. This discouraged families with children from continuing residency or applying to live there. Furthermore, the property was not otherwise exempt and had not been registered with the state as housing for older persons.
The cases are currently being conciliated by OEO to see if an agreement can be reached to resolve the matter between the parties. If conciliation is unsuccessful, the tenants may request a hearing before the Fair Housing Board or file a lawsuit in state or federal court.
Fair housing laws in Palm Beach County prohibit a housing provider from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, age, marital status or gender identity or expression. These laws specifically prohibit refusing to rent, or otherwise taking action to deny housing, to families with children (unless the housing meets certain requirements as housing for older persons).
The OEO is the county department charged with enforcement of the county’s equal employment, fair housing and public accommodations ordinances. Persons wishing information on the filing of a complaint may go to the OEO Web site at: www.pbcgov.org/equalopportunity or contact OEO at (561) 355-4883.
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