Cincinnati, Ohio – (RealEstateRama) — Before the Ohio General Assembly adjourned its session last month it handed landlords a big win with the passage of legislation aimed at curbing harassment-for-profit by local fair housing organizations.
Responding to concerns of landlords from around Ohio that had been targeted by fair housing groups the National Real Estate Investors Association assembled a coalition of organizations, crafted legislation, and worked to pass the law that levels the playing field when a charge of discrimination is made.
State Senator William Seitz (R-Cincinnati) sponsored the legislation in the Ohio Senate while State Representatives Jonathan Dever (R-Madeira) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson) sponsored a companion bill in the House. As the two-year session drew to a close in December their legislation was added as an amendment to Dever’s House Bill 463, a related bill that had been placed on the fast track for passage. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 26-5 while the House concurred with the Senate amendments by a vote of 72-21. Ohio Governor John Kasich signed the bill into law on January 4th.
The new law makes several changes to the administrative process, leveling the playing field when a charge of discrimination is filed with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and protecting landlords from poaching by:
• Making actual damages discretionary if a violation is found;
• Making reasonable attorney fees discretionary if a violation is found;
• Eliminating mandatory punitive damages and replacing them with discretionary civil penalties if a violation is found;
• Allowing a landlord to recover attorney fees if the Commission finds no violation;
• Allows the Commission to use alternative dispute resolution;
• Prohibits a change in the complaint after seven days prior to the hearing before the Commission.
National REIA worked closely with Senator Seitz and Representative Dever as well as legislative leaders to achieve this victory. In addition, National REIA’s grassroots advocacy had a strong impact as lawmakers received calls, letters, and e-mails from investors around the country in support of the legislation.