§ 8-3-213. State action for enforcement; fines; damages; civil action by local agency; administrative proceeding.

CODE OF GEORGIA

Title 8. BUILDINGS AND HOUSING

Chapter 3. HOUSING GENERALLY

Article 4. FAIR HOUSING

Current through 2019-2020 Chapters 1-469, 473, 476-478, 481-485, 487, 489, 493, 494, 500, 502, 509, 515, 521, 523-526, 533, 536-541, 544, 545, 550, 551, 553, 557, 562, 568, 570, 571, 590, 595-597, 599, 600, 602-606

§ 8-3-213. State action for enforcement; fines; damages; civil action by local agency; administrative proceeding

(a)
(1) When a charge is filed to initiate an administrative complaint under Code Section 8-3-208, a complainant, a respondent, or an aggrieved person on whose behalf the complaint was filed may elect to have the claims asserted in that charge decided in a civil action brought by the Attorney General on behalf of the aggrieved person as provided under paragraph (2) of this subsection in lieu of a hearing under subparagraph (e)(1)(A) or (e)(1)(B) of this Code section. The election must be made not later than 20 days after the receipt by the electing person of service under Code Section 8-3-211 or, in the case of the administrator, not later than 20 days after such service. The person making such election shall give notice of doing so to the administrator and to all other complainants and respondents to whom the charge relates.
(2) If the administrator has been unable to obtain voluntary compliance or as a result of an investigation under Code Section 8-3-209 finds that there is reasonable cause to believe that a discriminatory housing practice has occurred, at the recommendation of the administrator, the Attorney General, after reviewing the administrator's findings and determining that such findings are well grounded in fact and warranted by law, shall bring an action in the name of the state on behalf of the aggrieved person to enforce the provisions of this article.
(3) If an election is made under paragraph (1) or (2) of this subsection, the administrator shall authorize and, not later than 30 days after the election is made, the Attorney General, after reviewing the administrator's charge and determining that such charge is well grounded in fact and warranted by law, shall commence a civil action on behalf of the aggrieved person seeking relief under this Code section in a superior court.
(b) Whenever an action filed in court pursuant to paragraph (2) of subsection (a) of this Code section or Code Section 8-3-217 or 8-3-218 comes to trial, the administrator shall immediately terminate all efforts to obtain voluntary compliance.
(c)
(1) The court may impose the following fines if the respondent has been adjudged to have committed a discriminatory housing practice:
(A) Up to $10,000.00, if the respondent has not previously been found guilty of committing a discriminatory housing practice;
(B) Up to $25,000.00, if the respondent has been found guilty of committing one prior discriminatory housing practice within the preceding five years; or
(C) Up to $50,000.00, if the respondent has been found guilty of committing two or more discriminatory housing practices within the preceding seven years.
(2) The court may award reasonable attorney's fees and costs to the administrator or aggrieved person in any action in which the administrator or aggrieved person prevails or to the respondent in any action in which the respondent prevails only upon a showing that the action is frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation.
(3) In addition to the remedies set forth in paragraphs (1) and (2) of this subsection, the court may award actual damages and punitive damages to the aggrieved person. Punitive damages awarded under this subsection may be awarded only when the evidence shows that the respondent's actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences or to the rights of the aggrieved party.
(d) Any local agency certified as substantially equivalent by the secretary of housing and urban development pursuant to Section 810 of the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 may institute a civil action in any appropriate court, including superior court, if it is unable to obtain voluntary compliance with the local fair housing law. The agency need not have petitioned for an administrative hearing or exhausted its administrative remedies prior to bringing a civil action. The court may impose fines as provided in the local fair housing law.
(e)
(1) If the administrator is unable to obtain voluntary compliance with this article and has reasonable cause to believe that a discriminatory housing practice has occurred:
(A) The administrator may institute an administrative proceeding under Chapter 13 of Title 50; or
(B) The person aggrieved may request administrative relief under Chapter 13 of Title 50 within 20 days after receipt of service of a charge filed under Code Section 8-3-211.

When an administrative hearing is to be instituted under subparagraph (A) or (B) of this paragraph, the administrator shall refer the case to the board of commissioners to conduct a hearing in accordance with this article. The board of commissioners shall designate a panel of three of its members, one of which must be an attorney licensed to practice law in the state, and that tribunal shall have all the power and authority granted to agencies in conducting hearings and rendering final orders under Chapter 13 of Title 50, the "Georgia Administrative Procedure Act," including, but not limited to, subpoena power.

(2) Not more than seven working days after the case has been referred to the board of commissioners, the administrator shall serve on the respondent and the person aggrieved or the aggrieved person's attorney by registered or certified mail or statutory overnight delivery a written notice together with a copy of the complaint requiring the respondent to answer the charges contained therein at a hearing before the board of commissioners at a time and place specified in the notice. Such notice must contain all general and specific charges against the respondent.
(3) The respondent shall serve an answer with the board of commissioners by registered or certified mail or statutory overnight delivery not more than 20 working days after receipt of the notice of hearing, which 20 working days may be extended by the board of commissioners in the board of commissioners' discretion for an additional time not to exceed ten working days. The respondent's answer must show by a certificate of service that the respondent has served a copy of the answer on the complainant or the complainant's attorney at the last known address of the complainant or the complainant's attorney where the complainant is represented by an attorney. Upon leave of the board of commissioners, the complainant may amend the charges contained in the notice of hearing. The respondent may amend an answer at any time prior to the hearing or, upon leave of the board of commissioners, may amend thereafter. No final order shall be issued unless the respondent has had the opportunity of a hearing on the charges contained in the notice of hearing or amendment on which the final order is based. If the respondent fails to answer the complaint, the board of commissioners may enter the respondent's default. Unless the default is set aside for good cause shown, the hearing may proceed under the available evidence.
(4) At any time after a notice of hearing is served upon a respondent, discovery shall be authorized in the same manner and fashion as discovery is permitted under Code Sections 9-11-26 through 9-11-37. Any order contemplated in Code Sections 9-11-26 through 9-11-37 may be issued by the board of commissioners. Judicial enforcement of any such order may be obtained by the complainant or respondent in the same manner as is provided for the enforcement of final orders in Code Section 45-19-40.
(5) A respondent who has filed an answer or whose default in answering has been set aside for good cause shown may appear at the hearing, may examine and cross-examine witnesses and the complainant, and may offer evidence. The complainant and, at the discretion of the board of commissioners, any other person may intervene, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and present evidence.
(6) Efforts at conference, conciliation, and persuasion shall not be received in evidence.
(7) Testimony taken at the hearing shall be under oath and shall be stenographically or otherwise recorded by a certified court reporter. After the hearing, the board of commissioners at the board of commissioners' discretion may take further evidence or hear arguments upon notice to all parties with an opportunity to be present.
(8) Except as otherwise specifically provided for in this article, all proceedings of the board of commissioners shall be conducted as provided for with respect to contested cases in Chapter 13 of Title 50.

Cite as OCGA § 8-3-213