Property & Civil Rights

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (CRA) provide protections for discrimination based on disability. The ADA defines disability as a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.” The CRA prevents discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics. Public entities, public accommodations, most employers, and some others must comply with the ADA and CRA. We have experience litigating civil rights claims under these federal statutes, especially in the interactions of property owners and developers with permitting governments.

Bert J. Harris Private Property Rights Protection Act

The Bert Harris Act was created in 1995 to provide a new cause of action for the private landowners to seek relief from governmental actions that “inordinately burden” their property. That is, it provides relief for injuries to landowners that are serious but that do not quite rise to the level of a constitutional taking. The Bert Harris Act, along with its companion Florida Land Use and Dispute Resolution Act (FLUEDRA), encourages settlement and creates opportunities for the government, the landowner, and the public to work together. We are uniquely positioned to protect the rights of landowners using the Bert Harris Act, and to bring the parties together to negotiate win-win solutions whenever possible.

Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (CRA) mandate equal housing opportunities regardless of race, creed, national origin, gender, disability, or parental status. Importantly, the FHA applies to municipalities and local governments. The FHA prevents them excluding or otherwise discriminating against protected person through zoning and land use decisions. The FHA also prevent the implementation of land use policies that are neutral or not discriminatory on their face, but which have a disparate impact or cause disproportional harm to a protected group. We have a depth of experience in employing the protections of the FHA in the interactions of property owners and developers with permitting governments.

Interstate Land Sales Act

The Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act (ILSA) has regulated the sales and transfers of subdivisions of land since 1968. Land developers with non-exempt projects of a certain size must register them with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (formerly with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). The developer must then provide a disclosure document called a property report before the signing of any contract or agreement. There has been more ILSA litigation since just 2007 than there had been in the previous 40 years. This, along with recent congressional action, has led to a changing landscape for developers and consumers. No matter the ILSA issue you are facing, whether related to litigation or to a real estate transaction, we have developed a familiarity with ILSA and are equipped to guide you through your rights and your decisions.

Inverse Condemnation & Takings

Takings are called “inverse condemnation” claims because they are the inverse of classic condemnation and eminent domain cases. These are cases where the government has taken private property but failed to pay the compensation required by the U.S. Constitution or by state constitutions. These takings may be by physical appropriate, such as by flooding or the destruction of access, or they may be by regulation that goes so far as to eliminate the reasonable use of property. For example, takings claims may arise following the denial of a land use or environmental permit. Our attorneys have a deep understanding of how to obtain just compensation for our clients when their properties have been appropriated or taken by the government.

Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act

The Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) was passed to combat the “massive evidence” of widespread discrimination against religious institutions by state and local officials in land-use decisions, according to the Department of Justice. RLUIPA prohibits local land use, zoning, and landmarking laws from substantially burdening the religious exercise of religious assemblies unless implementation of such laws is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling government interest. We are familiar with this special law that protects the rights to build, buy, and lease a place to assemble for worship.

Section 1983 Civil Rights Litigation

One of the strongest protections for civil and property rights today is a statute referred to as Section 1983. Since 1871, this statute has been used to fight the most egregious violations of rights in this country’s history, such as racial and religious persecution. Today, its most important provision, called Section 1983, is appropriate when state and local governments violate the U.S. Constitution or federal laws. Relief can include money damages and declaratory and injunctive relief. While this federal statute is a powerful tool, there are many traps for the unwary in using it. We are well-versed in achieving justice for our clients using Section 1983, and we are able to guide them through potential pitfalls along the way.