This Act ensures that all individuals, regardless of housing status, have equal opportunity to live in decent, safe, sanitary, and healthful accommodations and enjoy equality of opportunities. To that end, this Act sets forth the rights of individuals experiencing homelessness, many of which are existing constitutional rights, and creates a process by which the State Human and Civil Rights Commission and the Division of Human and Civil Rights may accept and investigate complaints of discriminatory treatment, attempt conciliation, and refer enforcement actions to law enforcement Internal Affairs if necessary. These entities already exist and administer Delaware’s Fair Housing and Equal Accommodations laws. This act is intended to prohibit discrimination on the sole basis that one is experiencing homelessness. It does not give preferential treatment to those experiencing homelessness, but merely prohibits discriminatory treatment.
The complaint process requires that conciliation is attempted before a public hearing is held, as set forth in lines 151-160 and 167-169.
This Act is a successor to House Bill No. 55, and differs from that bill in the following ways:
1) The new Chapter it creates is entitled “Anti-Discrimination Provisions for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness” instead of “Bill of Rights for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness.”
2) Defines the term reasonable search.
3) Expands the definition of “individuals experiencing homelessness” to include those who may be staying with different friends or family without a permanent home.
4) Eliminates a reference to voting rights, since such rights are addressed elsewhere in the Code.
5) Clarifies that the right to seek or maintain housing does not preclude or limit a municipality’s enforcement of its housing, building, and sanitation laws.
6) Changes the right to occupy a motor vehicle or recreational vehicle, provided that the vehicle is legally parked "on public property" to "in a public parking lot."
7) Confirms that the right to be free from discrimination by landlords on the basis of experiencing homelessness does not preclude a landlord’s consideration of any other factor that is permissible under State or federal law.
8) Removes the provision that the Commission and the Division may consult with state, county, and municipal officials, and other interested parties, to learn the extent, if any, to which discriminatory acts exist in the State, county, or municipality, and whether and how state, county, or municipal enforcement programs might be utilized to combat the discrimination.
9) Mandates reporting on the Division's educational activities.
10) Provides that upon preliminary confirmation that the party alleged to have engaged in a discriminatory act is a law enforcement officer or law enforcement agency, the Division shall refer the matter to the applicable Internal Affairs department (instead of the Department of Justice) for further appropriate investigation and resolution.
11) Provides that the Commission shall issue an annual report identifying organizations who has committed three or more substantiated violations of § 4504A of this title in a 12 month period.
12) Clarifies that judicial review is done in accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act.
13) Provides respondents with a cause of action for damages, including attorneys’ fees, costs, and punitive damages, against a complainant who abuses the process set forth in the act.