NEOCH and The Fight 349 Coalition invite you to participate in a campaign to stop Senate Bill 349 which would undermine Ohio's Fair Housing laws by creating an exemption for owners of 3 or fewer dwelling units; permitting landlords to recover attorney fees from tenants in the case of a finding of "no probable cause" and capping damages for fair housing organizations seeking to recover their expenses when prosecuting a discrimination case. The legislation would make it difficult for fair housing groups to use "testers" to go to the property to assure that landlords are not violating the law. It does not make any sense to make it impossible to test these violations and give all the power to the landlord in these disputes.
If passed in Ohio, it would likely cost the state to lose $1 million which comes to the state to investigate Fair Housing cases because the federal government would not consider the State of Ohio an effective partner in battling fair housing violations. That would likely stop veterans and active military from bringing discrimination claims as is their right under state law as for example when a landlord refuses to rent to a military family that is at risk of being called to active duty.
- Sets up conflict between state and federal fair housing law, thereby stripping Ohio of the approximately $1 million that HUD annually provides to the OCRC to investigate discrimination cases. The housing law conflict would prohibit the OCRC from accessing Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) dollars that support complaint processing, enforcement activities, training and other projects.
- Diminishes the consequences of discrimination by lowering and capping the punitive damages that landlords found guilty of flagrant discrimination would have to pay.
- Discourages victims of housing discrimination from filing a complaint to protect their rights by making them liable for the attorney’s fees of the party they accuse of discrimination if there is not enough evidence to prove their case.
- Reduces legal challenges to discrimination by prohibiting state or local fair housing agencies from collecting actual or punitive damages.
- Renders the OCRC unable to punish housing discrimination and forces cases into the more expensive and complex courts process.
- Superficially mirrors some portions of federal law while gutting Ohio’s current protections from housing discrimination.
We have yet to fulfill the goals of the Fair Housing Act. We still have discrimination based on gender, gender identity, familial status and of course race or national origin. Why would the state want to weaken our fair housing laws when we see the large number of protected groups becoming homeless because they cannot find housing.
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