AN ACT AMENDING TITLE 6, DELAWARE CODE OF 1953, BY PROTECTING THE PUBLIC WELFARE, EFFECTUATING THE RIGHTS OF ALL PERSONS TO FULL AND EQUAL ACCESS TO HOUSING OFFERED TO THE PUBLIC FOR SALE OR RENT, DEFINING UNLAWFUL PRACTICES INVOLVING DISCRIMINATION ON ACCOUNT OF RACE, COLOR, RELIGION OR NATIONAL ORIGIN, EMPOWERING AND DIRECTING THE STATE HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION TO ADMINISTER THE LAW AND PROVIDING CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Delaware:
Section 1. Title 6, Delaware Code of 1953, is amended by adding a new chapter thereto reading as follows:
EQUAL RIGHTS TO HOUSING
§ 4601. Definitions
As used in this chapter—
(1) "Dwelling" means any building, structure, or portion thereof which is occupied as, or designed or intended for occupancy as, a residence by one or more families, together with any land which is offered for sale or rent therewith, and also means any vacant land which is offered for sale or rent for the construction or location thereon of any such building, structure, or portion thereof.
(2) "To rent" includes to lease, to sublease, to let and otherwise to grant, continue or renew for a consideration the right to occupy premises not owned by the occupant.
(3) A dwelling shall be considered as "Offered to the public for sale or rent" if the owner of the dwelling or his agent, (a) shall publish, post, display or circulate, or cause to be published, posted, displayed or circulated, any sign, notice, circular, poster, advertisement or the like which discloses or indicates that such dwelling is for sale or rent, or (b) shall hire, employ or contract with any person for the purpose of having such other person offer such dwelling for sale or rent, or (c) shall offer such dwelling for sale or rent as a normal activity of a business of the owner involving sale or rental of dwellings.
(4) "Family" includes a single individual.
(5) "Person" includes one or more individuals, corporations, partnerships, associations, labor organizations, legal representatives, mutual companies, joint-stock companies, trusts, unincorporated organizations, trustees, trustees in bankruptcy, receivers and fiduciaries.
(6) "Commission" means the State Human Relations Commission.
§ 4602. Purpose and construction
This chapter is intended to eliminate, as to housing offered to the public for sale or rent, discrimination based upon race, color, religion or national origin, and to provide an administrative procedure through which disputes concerning the same may effectively and expeditiously be resolved with fairness and due process for all parties concerned. This chapter shall be liberally construed to the end that its purposes may be accomplished and all persons may fully enjoy equal rights and access to housing for themselves and their families.
§ 4603. Unlawful practices
Except as provided in § 4604, it shall be an unlawful practice for any person, because of race, color, religion or national origin of another person, to:
(a) refuse to sell or rent, or refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny to any person, a dwelling offered to the public for sale or rent;
(b) expel any person from a dwelling;
(c) discriminate against any person in the price, terms, conditions or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith;
(d) make, print, or publish or cause to be made, printed or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin, or an intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination;
(e) represent to any person that any dwelling is not available for inspection, sale or rental when. such dwelling is in fact so available;
(f) induce or attempt to induce, for profit, any person to sell or rent any dwelling by representations regarding the entry or prospective entry into the neighborhood of a person or persons of a particular race, color, religion or national origin;
(g) deny a loan or other financial assistance to a person applying therefor for the purpose of purchasing, constructing, improving, repairing, or maintaining a dwelling; or discriminate against him in the fixing of the amount, interest rate, duration or other terms or conditions of such loan or other financial assistance;
(h) deny any person access to or membership or participation in any multi-listing service,' real estate brokers' organization or other service organization or facility relating to the business of selling or renting dwellings, or to discriminate against him in the terms or conditions of such access, membership or participation; or
() assist, induce, incite or coerce another person to commit any of the unlawful practices specified in this section.
§ 4604. Limitations on applicability of Chapter
The provisions of this chapter shall not apply to:
(a) dwellings owned and operated for other than a commercial purpose by (i) a religious organization, association or society or (ii) any non-profit institution or organization operated, supervised or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association or society;
(b) rooms or units in dwellings containing living quarters occupied or intended to be occupied by no more than four families living independently of each other, if the owner thereof actually maintains and occupies one of such living quarters as his residence.
§ 4605. Enforcement and procedure on complaint
(a) Any person believing himself to be aggrieved by an unlawful practice as defined in Section 4603 may file with the Commission a complaint in writing. Such complaint shall be filed within 20 days after the date of the alleged unlawful practice, or, if the occurrence thereof was not immediately known to the aggrieved person, then within 20 days after actually learning thereof, but in no case more than six months after the alleged unlawful practice. Such complaint shall state:
(1) the name and address of the complainant;
(2) the name and address, if known, of the person or persons who allegedly committed the unlawful practice;
(3) the location of the dwelling involved;
(4) the date when the alleged unlawful practice occurred;
(5) a statement of the facts upon which the complainant bases his contention that the respondent violated the provisions of this act;
(6) such other information as may be required by the Commission.
(b) The complaint shall be signed under oath by the complainant and sworn to before a person authorized to administer oaths.
(c) Upon receipt of a complaint, the Commission shall send a copy of the complaint to the respondent by registered or certified mail.
(d) As soon as practicable, the Chairman of the Commission shall appoint a panel of three Members of the Commission who shall promptly conduct such investigations and hold such hearings, public or private, as they deem necessary and proper. The panel they so appoint shall, as a part of their investigation, endeavor to eliminate any unlawful practice and the consequences thereof by inducing compliance through informal methods of conference, persuasion and conciliation.
(e) Within 45 clays after the filing of a complaint, the panel of Commissioners, or a majority of them, shall submit a written report of their findings to the Chairman. If a majority of the Commissioners determine that the respondent did not commit an unlawful practice, the Chairman shall issue an order of the Commission dismissing the complaint. If a majority of the Commissioners determine that the respondent committed an unlawful practice, the Chairman shall execute with the respondent an agreement which shall provide that the respondent shall refrain from any unlawful practice and contain such other terms as are reasonable to effectuate the purpose of this chapter, including provisions to provide relief from the consequences of the unlawful practice and provisions to insure future compliance with the law by the respondent. In the event that the respondent shall refuse to execute such an agreement, the Chairman shall issue an order of the Commission specifying the unlawful practice committed by respondent, stating the findings of the panel of Commissioners who investigated the complaint, and directing the respondent to discontinue such unlawful practice and to comply with such other stated terms as are reasonable to effectuate the purposes of this chapter, except, however, that no such order shall issue unless a hearing, private or public, has been held.
(f) If a majority of the Commissioners appointed find that probable cause exists for believing that the allegations of the complaint are true and constitute an unlawful practice as defined in Section 4603 and that the complaint was not filed for harassment or frivolous purposes, said Commissioners, in the name of the Commission and represented by the Attorney General, may petition the Court of Chancery for appropriate injunctive relief against the respondent, including orders and decrees restraining the respondent from selling, renting or otherwise making unavailable to the complainant the dwelling specified in the complaint pending final determination of proceedings under this chapter. No such injunctive relief shall be granted except after hearing, notice of which shall be given to the respondent at least three days prior thereto by the Commission by registered mail. The Court shall have power to grant such relief as it deems just and proper except as otherwise provided herein. The respondent may file an answer to the complaint and appear at such hearing in person or otherwise, and submit testimony and evidence. The Court shall not issue any order or decree restraining the respondent from selling, renting or otherwise making the dwelling specified in the complaint unavailable to the complainant for a period either exceeding 30 days from the clay such order or decree was issued, or until a final order has been issued by the Chairman of the Commission as provided in this section, whichever event shall occur first.
§ 4606. Power to determine compliance
The Commission shall have the power independently to determine compliance with the provisions of this chapter. In pursuance thereof, the Commission, or any panel of three Commissioners appointed by the Chairman, may conduct such investigations and hold such hearings, public or private, as are deemed necessary and proper. Upon finding that an unlawful practice has been committed by any person the Chairman shall give notice thereof to the person involved and shall endeavor to execute an agreement with such person as provided in Section 4605. If the person refuses to sign such an agreement, an order may be issued as provided in Section 4605, except that no such order shall issue unless (i) a hearing, public or private, is first held in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, and (ii) the date of the issuance of the order is within one year of the commission of the unlawful practice. The order shall be served forthwith on the respondent personally or by registered or certified mail. The Chairman may relax the terms or conditions of any order or agreement under this section if performance would cause an undue hardship on the respondent or any other person and if not otherwise inconsistent with the purpose of this chapter or rescind such regulations as it may deem necessary or appropriate to administer the provisions of this chapter, and such regulations shall, except as may be otherwise provided by the Commission, take effect upon publication.
§ 4608. Investigations and hearings
Investigations shall be conducted and hearings, public or private, shall be held under this chapter in accordance with the regulations of the Commission; provided, however, that in the holding of hearings, public or private: (i) at least 3 days' notice shall be given to all parties, (ii) testimony shall be given under oath, (iii) all parties shall be entitled to be heard in person or by attorney and to present evidence, and (iv) the right of cross-examination shall be preserved.
§ 4609. Compelling attendance of witness and production of documents; subpoenas; oaths; witness fees and mileage
(a) In any proceeding under this chapter any Member of the Commission may administer oaths, and may compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of papers, books, accounts and other documents by issuing in the name of the Commission, subpoenas which shall be served by any employee or Member of the Commission or by any sheriff, deputy sheriff, or constable, with return thereof made to the Commission.
(b) Any witness appearing in response to a subpoena shall receive fees and mileage allowances computed at the rate allowed to witnesses in the Superior Court.
§ 4610. Refusal to obey subpoena, answer questions or produce documents; contempt
If a person is subpoenaed and fails to obey the command of such subpoena without reasonable cause, or if a person in attendance refuses without lawful cause to be examined or to answer any proper question, or to produce papers, books, accounts or other documents when ordered to do so by a Member of the Commission, the Commission may apply to the Superior Court in and for the county where such hearing is being held for an order returnable in not less than two or more than ten days directing such person to show cause before the Court why he should not comply with the subpoena or. order. Upon the return of such order the judge before whom the matter comes on for hearing shall examine under oath the person whose testimony may be relevant to be heard and if the judge determines that the person refused without legal excuse to obey the command of such subpoena or to be examined, or to answer a legal or pertinent question, or to produce a book or paper which he was ordered to produce, the judge may order such person to comply forthwith with the subpoena or order and any failure to obey such order of the court or judge may be punished by the court or judge as a contempt of the Superior Court.
§ 4611. Right of appeal; procedure; scope of review
(a) Any complainant or respondent aggrieved by an order under this chapter shall have a right of appeal by serving upon the Commission and all adverse parties and filing, within 15 days of the date of the issuance of the order, a notice of appeal in the Superior Court in the county in which the unlawful practice is alleged to have been committed.
(b) The grounds of the appeal shall be specifically set forth in the Notice of Appeal. Service of the Notice of Appeal upon any Member of the Commission shall be deemed service upon the Commission. The Commission shall be represented by the Attorney General. The Commission shall cause to be filed forthwith a certified copy of its record in the proceedings. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, the filing of the appeal shall act as a stay of the order appealed from until disposition of the appeal.
() The cause of appeal shall be tried de novo and proceedings shall be held as in other civil actions.
§ 4612. Enforcement of Commission orders
The Attorney General, upon the written request of the Chairman and on behalf of the Commission as plaintiff, shall commence a civil action in the Court of Chancery for the enforcement of any order or agreement under this chapter.
§ 4613. Violations and penalties
Any person, who, upon prosecution instituted by the Attorney General or the Commission, or upon prosecution instituted by any other person after certification by the Commission as provided in Section 4514 of Title 6, shall be found guilty of an unlawful practice proscribed by Section 4603, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not more than $500.00 or imprisoned for not more than ninety days, or both.
Section 2. If any clause, sentence, paragraph or part of this Act or the application thereof to any person or circumstances, shall, for any reason, be adjudged by a court of competent jurisdiction, to be invalid, such judgment shall not affect, impair or invalidate the remainder of this Act.