United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
ANTOON II JUDGE
Kirk Root brought the instant action alleging that Defendant
Nilo Salazar violated two provisions of the Fair Housing
Act-42 U.S.C. §§ 3604(f)(1) and 3604(c)- and
§§ 57.48 and 57.49 of the Orlando City Code. Root
contends that Salazar made discriminatory statements
indicating his intention to refuse tenancy to Root because of
Root's disability and ultimately denied Root tenancy
because of the disability. (Doc. 1). Root now moves for
summary judgment. (Doc. 30). As set forth below, Root's
motion is denied on his claims under 42 U.S.C. §
3604(f)(1) and Orlando City Code § 57.48 but is granted
on his claims under 42 U.S.C. § 3604(c) and Orlando City
Code § 57.49.
January 7, 2017, Roottexted Salazar to inquire about renting
one of the units in a duplex that Salazar owns in Orlando,
Florida. (Ex. 1 to Root Decl.). Root sought to take the place
of the roommate of the unit's tenant. (Root Dep. at 32).
Salazar responded to the text and emailed Root a rental
application. (Salazar Dep. at 43). The application listed
rental requirements including rent-to-income ratio, present
and past rental history, and references. (Id. at
a few days, a friend of Root's, Tom Scala, contacted
Salazar on Root's behalf and disclosed to Salazar that
Root uses a wheelchair and occasionally crutches due to a
mobility impairment. (]d. at 53-54, 64-65). Salazar never met
Root or spoke with him directly. (Id. at 55-56).
After Salazar's conversation with Scala, Salazar
researched the Fair Housing Act, Housing and Urban
Development requirements, and Root himself. (Id. at
researching Root online, Salazar discovered a Go Fund Me
website that Root set up in December 2016 to ask for spare
change. (Id. at 54). He also found a second Go Fund
Me website that Root set up on January 8-one day after Root
first texted Salazar- to ask for funds to help him pay the
security deposit for a new apartment. (Id. at 61;
Root Dep. at 43). Salazar never told Root that he had found
these webpages. (Salazar Dep. at 61-62).
January 12, Salazar sent Root a text message stating:
After the conversation this morning I understand better the
situation. It is unfortunately [sic], but I have to say the
property that I will have available does not provide the
accommodations suggested by the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING
AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT OFFICE OF FAIR HOUSING AND EQUAL
OPPORTUNITY. When you read the section under: ACCESSIBILITY
(DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION) REQUIREMENTS FOR COVERED
MULTIFAMILY DWELLINGS UNDER THE FAIR HOUSING ACT You [sic]
realize my 1959 building does not comply with the guidelines
establish [sic] on March 6, 1991. Renting that building to a
handicap person with challenging mobility motor skills will
be doing a dishonesty to that person. Furthermore, allowing
the possibility of an accident that will further limit the
person [sic] mobility will be a negligent act on my behalf.
I am sorry but I want all of us to be safe and avoid
accidents. I have to say no. There are plenty [sic]
properties out there that were built after 1991 that comply
with the Fair Housing Act.
(Ex. 1 to Root Decl.). Salazar later repeated these and
similar statements to an employee of the Orange County
Citizen Resource and Outreach Office and to a City of Orlando
discrimination investigator. (Ex. B to Gillespie Decl., at
3-5). Salazar did not mention finding the Go Fund Me webpages
to these two individuals. (Salazar Dep. at 61-62).
January 17, Salazar was informed that Root had been staying
at the duplex with the then-current tenant for several weeks
without signing a lease, (Id. at 70). Salazar then
changed the locks to the duplex, and Root's personal
belongings were removed and returned to him. (Id. at
73-74; Root Dep. at 63-64). The tenant remained in the duplex
without a roommate for the remainder of the lease term.
(Salazar Dep. at 32). Root filed the present action on
December 18, 2017.
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court must construe the facts and all
reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing
Prods.. Inc.. 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). However, when
faced with a "properly supported motion for summary
judgment, [the nonmoving party] must come forward with
specific factual evidence, presenting more than mere
allegations." Gargiulo v. G.M. Sales.
Inc.. 131 F.3d 995, 999 (11th Cir. 1997). "[A]t the
summary judgment stage the judge's function is not
himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the
matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for
trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). "Essentially, the
inquiry is 'whether the evidence presents a sufficient
disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether it
is so onesided that one party must prevail as a matter of
law.'" Sawyer v. Southwest Airlines Co.,
243 F.Supp.2d 1257, 1262 (D. Kan. 2003) (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52).