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Bill Number: 1475 Ratification Number: 528 Act Number 445 Introducing Body: Senate Subject: Powers of commission
(A445, R528, S1475)
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 31-21-100, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO THE POWERS OF THE STATE HUMAN AFFAIRS COMMISSION TO ADMINISTER THE PROVISIONS OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA FAIR HOUSING LAW, SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT AN AGREEMENT WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT MAY INCLUDE PROVISIONS UNDER WHICH THE DEPARTMENT SHALL REFRAIN FROM PROCESSING A CHARGE IN ANY CLASS SPECIFIED IN THE AGREEMENT; TO AMEND SECTION 31-21-120, RELATING TO THE PROCESSING AND HANDLING OF COMPLAINTS UNDER THE FAIR HOUSING LAW, SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT COMPLAINANTS REFERRED TO THE COMMISSION BY THE DEPARTMENT MAY NOT BE REFERRED BY THE COMMISSION TO A LOCAL AGENCY AND DELETE A PROVISION CONCERNING WHEN THE COMMISSION IS UNABLE TO OBTAIN VOLUNTARY COMPLIANCE WITH THE FAIR HOUSING LAW; AND TO AMEND SECTION 31-21-130, RELATING TO THE INVESTIGATOR'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION UPON COMPLETION OF HIS INVESTIGATION AND THE PROCEDURE FOLLOWING THE SUBMISSION OF THIS REPORT, SO AS TO CHANGE THE TIME PERIOD IN WHICH AN ACTION MAY BE BROUGHT AGAINST THE RESPONDENT IF THE ORDER IS FOR DISMISSAL, PROVIDE THAT IF AN ELECTION IS MADE FOR A CIVIL ACTION THE COMMISSIONER OF THE STATE HUMAN AFFAIRS COMMISSION SHALL, WITHIN THIRTY DAYS FROM THE DATE OF ELECTION, COMMENCE A CIVIL ACTION ON BEHALF OF THE AGGRIEVED PERSON, AND REQUIRE THAT IF THE PANEL FINDS THAT THE RESPONDENT HAS ENGAGED IN AN UNLAWFUL DISCRIMINATORY PRACTICE IT SHALL STATE ITS FINDINGS OF FACT AND SERVE THE COMPLAINANT IN ADDITION TO THE RESPONDENT AN OPINION AND ORDER FOR APPROPRIATE RELIEF; AND TO AMEND SECTION 31-21-140, RELATING TO THE TIME WITHIN WHICH A CIVIL ACTION MUST BE COMMENCED UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE FAIR HOUSING LAW, SO AS TO DELETE THE REQUIREMENT THAT THE COURT SHALL CONTINUE A CIVIL CASE BROUGHT PURSUANT TO THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 31-21-120 IF THE COURT BELIEVES THAT THE CONCILIATION EFFORTS ARE LIKELY TO RESULT IN A SATISFACTORY SETTLEMENT OF THE DISCRIMINATORY HOUSING PRACTICES COMPLAINED OF IN THE COMPLAINT AND PROVIDE THAT A CIVIL ACTION MAY BE COMMENCED BY AN AGGRIEVED PERSON WHETHER OR NOT A COMPLAINT HAS BEEN FILED WITH THE COMMISSION.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
Powers of commission
SECTION 1. Section 31-21-100(10) of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"(10) make contractual agreements within the scope and authority of this chapter with any agency of the federal government. An agreement with the Department of Housing and Urban Development may include provisions under which the department shall refrain from processing a charge in this State in any class specified in the agreement;".
Complaints may not be referred
SECTION 2. (A) Section 31-21-120(C) of the 1976 Code is amended by adding after the last sentence:
"Complaints referred to the commission by the Department of Housing and Urban Development may not be referred by the commission to a local agency."
(B) Section 31-21-120 of the 1976 Code is amended by deleting subsection (G) and relettering subsections (H) and (I) as (G) and (H) respectively.
Dismissal of complaint
SECTION 3. Section 31-21-130(B) of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"(B) If the order is for dismissal, the commissioner shall mail a copy of the order to the complainant and the respondent at their last known addresses. The complainant may bring an action against the respondent in circuit court within ninety days of the date of the dismissal or within one year from the date of the violation alleged, whichever occurs later, to enforce the rights granted or protected by this chapter and to seek relief as provided for in Section 31-21-140."
SECTION 4. Section 31-21-130(C)(2) of the 1976 Code is amended by adding at the end:
"If an election is made for a civil action, the commissioner shall, within thirty days from the date of election, commence and maintain a civil action pursuant to Section 31-21-140 on behalf of the aggrieved person."
Opinion and order to be served
SECTION 5. Section 31-21-130(L) of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"(L) If, upon all the evidence at the hearing, the panel shall find that the respondent has engaged in any unlawful discriminatory practice, it shall state its findings of fact and serve upon the complainant and the respondent in the name of the commission an opinion and order for appropriate relief which may include that the unlawful discriminatory practice be discontinued, actual damages, civil penalties which may not be greater than civil penalties established by the federal Fair Housing Act in Section 812, and reasonable attorney's fees. The commission may retain jurisdiction of the case until it is satisfied of compliance by the respondent of its order."
Time for commencement of civil action
SECTION 6. Section 31-21-140(A) of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"(A) A civil action must be commenced within one year after the alleged discriminatory housing practice has occurred. However, the court shall continue a civil case brought pursuant to this section from time to time before bringing it to trial if the court believes that the conciliation efforts of the commission or local agency are likely to result in satisfactory settlement of the discriminatory housing practice complained of in the complaint made to the commission or to the local agency and which practice forms the basis for the action in court. Any sale, encumbrance, or rental consummated before the issuance of any court order issued under the authority of this chapter and involving a bona fide purchaser, encumbrances, or tenant without actual notice of the existence of the filing of a complaint or civil action under the provisions of this chapter are not affected. A civil action may be commenced by an aggrieved person whether or not a complaint has been filed with the commission."
SECTION 7. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.
Approved the 3rd day of May, 1990.