Attorney General Bonta Issues Alert Highlighting Tenants’ Rights Against Housing Discrimination | State of California – Department of Justice

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today issued an alert reminding tenants of their fair housing rights and protections. A number of state and federal laws prohibit discrimination in housing based on a person’s race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other protected characteristics. In today’s alert, Attorney General Bonta highlights some key aspects of these protections.

“Tenants have rights under the Fair Employment and Housing Act and other laws that protect against many forms of housing discrimination. With the housing shortage and affordability crisis facing our communities, it is crucial that tenants know and are able to utilize their rights,” said Attorney General Bonta. “My office is committed to using all the tools we have to address the housing crisis — and stopping housing discrimination is an essential part of that effort.”

Prohibited Forms of Discrimination

Under state and federal fair housing laws such as the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Unruh Civil Rights Act, Fair Housing Act, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), tenants are protected against illegal discrimination imposed by housing providers, such as landlords, master tenants, and property managers. Below are five examples of prohibited discrimination (note that this is not a complete list):

  • Income: It is generally illegal to be denied rental housing or be treated differently based on your source of income. Recent amendments to FEHA have expanded this prohibition to include housing subsidies, most commonly U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8). 
  • Race/Ethnicity/Color: It is illegal to be denied rental housing or be treated differently based on race, ethnicity, or the color of your skin. For example, landlords or managers of apartment complexes may not enforce community rules or provide maintenance services differently, charge higher rent, or steer tenants to a particular area of the complex based on these characteristics.
  • Disability: It is illegal to be denied rental housing or be treated unfavorably based on a person’s actual or perceived physical or mental disability and/or an association with others who have a disability. Housing providers are generally required to make reasonable accommodations in housing rules, policies, practices, or services where necessary to afford a person with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. For example, generally a landlord must waive a no-pets policy or pet deposit requirement when an individual who requires an assistance animal to access housing requests such a waiver.
  • Sex/Gender/Sexual Orientation: It is illegal to be denied rental housing or be treated differently based on sex or gender. For example, a landlord cannot list a rental unit at a higher price, or require a higher deposit because of a person’s sex or gender.  Additionally, landlords cannot engage in sexual harassment, which includes, for example, requesting sexual favors for reduced rent, or creating a hostile environment of a sexual nature that is unwelcome and persistent. Further, discrimination based on a tenant’s gender identity/expression or sexual orientation is also illegal.
  • Familial Status: It is illegal to be denied rental housing or be treated differently based on familial status, i.e., the presence of children under the age of 18 in a person’s household. For example, a landlord refusing to rent a unit to a family with children, charging a higher security deposit to a family with children, or increasing rent because a resident brings a child into their household are all forms of housing discrimination.

Resources

If you believe that you are a victim of housing discrimination, you may file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing here. You may also file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development here.

Additionally, you can find legal assistance through the National Fair Housing Alliance by locating your local fair housing center here. Resources and legal assistance are also available through LawHelpCA, and can be found here.

Attorney General Bonta is committed to advancing housing access, affordability, and equity in California. Earlier this month, Attorney General Bonta announced a $3.5 million judgment against Wedgewood, a Los Angeles county-based real estate investment company, resolving allegations that Wedgewood unlawfully evicted tenants from properties purchased at foreclosure sales. Last month, he announced the creation of a Housing Strike Force within the California Department of Justice and the convening of a series of tenant roundtables across the state. The Housing Strike Force encourages Californians to send complaints or tips related to housing to housing@doj.ca.gov. Attorney General Bonta also launched a Housing Portal on DOJ’s website with resources and information for California homeowners and tenants.

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