Q: Does Lee County Human Services help persons find housing or resolve landlord/tenant problems connected with current housing?
For help finding housing, search our list of low-income housing providers.
For Section 8/HUD housing assistance programs: City of Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency, 239-321-7100.
For landlord/tenant dispute: Contact Florida Rural Legal Services at 239-334-4554; or visit Citizen Dispute Settlement-Twentieth Judicial Circuit of Florida (contact information below). Citizen Dispute Settlement provides free assistance to help disputing parties negotiate mutually beneficial solutions to their problems with the aid of a mediator. Complaint can be filed online.
Fort Myers Office
Lee County Justice Center
1700 Monroe Street
Fort Myers, FL 33901
Q: How does a person file a complaint of housing discrimination in Lee County?
Click here for contact information.
Q: Can a landlord make rules governing the conduct of children?
Yes. He/She may adopt reasonable rules that are not an excuse for discriminating against renters with children. The rules should apply evenly to adults and children.
Q: Can a landlord refuse to rent to people with children because there are no recreational facilities for children in the complex?
No. The landlord cannot refuse to rent based on the lack of recreational facilities.
Q: Can a landlord refuse to rent to families with children?
Generally, a landlord cannot refuse to rent to an applicant because there are children in the family. The requirements for rental and the terms and conditions must be the same for families with children as for any other applicant or tenant. The one exception to this rule involves "Housing for older persons," meaning:
Provided under any State or Federal program that the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determine is specifically designed and operated to assist elderly persons (as defined in the State or Federal program); or Intended for, and solely occupied by, persons 62 years of age or older; or Intended and operated for occupancy by at least one person 55 years of age older per unit and at least 80 percent of the occupied units are occupied by at least one person who is 55 years of age or older and complies with the provisions set for the Section II, E of the Lee County Ordinance 00-19.
Q: Can a landlord exclude a person with a guide dog if they have a "no pets policy"?
No. The animal in this case is not considered a pet. The disabled person should request a "reasonable accommodation" to the rules and policies from the landlord. A person with a vision or hearing impairment cannot be denied housing because of his/her need for a service animal.
Q: What are some examples of "reasonable accommodations"?
- Reading the rental application to a prospective tenant with a visual impairment or a learning disability
- Helping a tenant with cognitive disabilities in filling out an application
- Changing a "no pets" rule to allow a companion dog for someone with a psychiatric disability
- Keeping laundry room door closed so that fumes do not make someone ill who has multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)
- Providing notices to tenants in large print, or calling a blind tenant to read the contents of the notice
- Sending monthly reminder on "rent day" for someone whose head injury causes memory lapses
- Adopting a policy which recognizes that "normal wear and tear" has a different meaning for a tenant who uses a wheelchair
- Allowing a reasonable extension on rent due for someone who has been hospitalized
- Using alternative pest control methods or lobby cleaners when a tenant has severe allergic responses to pesticides or cleaners being used
- Allowing tenants with psychiatric or other disabilities have pets for therapeutic reasons, with no increase in security deposit
- Posting a "no smoking" sign in the lobby, to protect tenants with multiple chemical sensitivity or asthma
Here is a sample letter of how to write a reasonable accommodation letter.
Q: I've had trouble with certain minorities, single men and younger people. Do I have to consider renting to them again?
Yes. You cannot refuse to rent to a person of a particular group because of previous negative experience with members of that group.
Q: If a tenant with a disability needs to modify his/her unit, is the landlord required to pay for the modifications?
Normally not. In most instances, the tenant is responsible for all costs connected to the modification. The tenant may also be required to restore the premises to the condition that existed before the modification (exceptions to that include widened doors and reinforced bathroom walls). There are, however, certain types of HUD-subsidized housing programs that require a landlord to pay for disability-related reasonable modifications. Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 tenants will not have to pay for the modifications if the housing provider receives financial assistance from any federal agency, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as well as in programs conducted by federal agencies including HUD in the building of that project.
Q: What can a landlord legally do?
- Inquire into an applicant's ability to meet the requirements of ownership or tenancy
- Credit - It is legal to deny the application because the applicant lacks sufficient income and a steady job to pay the rent.
- Rental History - It is legal for a landlord to make a decision on a prospective tenant based on information received during a reference check which indicated poor housekeeping habits as long as the landlord's determination is not otherwise discriminatory based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability.
- Inquire to determine whether an applicant is qualified for a dwelling available only to persons with handicaps or to persons with a particular type of handicap
- Inquire to determine whether an applicant for a dwelling is qualified for a priority available to persons with handicaps or to persons with a particular type of handicap
- Inquire whether an applicant for a dwelling is a current illegal abuser or addict of a controlled substance
- Inquire whether an applicant has been convicted of the illegal manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance
- Deny dwelling to an individual whose tenancy would constitute a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals or whose tenancy would result in substantial physical damage to the property of others