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DISCRIMINATION

What is unlawful discrimination?

As a Landlord you cannot refuse to rent to a tenant. or engage in any other type of discrimination, on the basis of group characteristics specified by law that are not closely related to your business needs.  Race and religion are examples of group characteristics specified by law. Arbitrary discrimination on the basis of any personal characteristic such as those listed under this heading also is prohibited.   The California Legislature has declared that the opportunity to seek, obtain and hold housing without unlawful discrimination is a civil right.

Under California law, it is unlawful for you, or your managing agent, real estate broker, or salesperson  to discriminate against a person or harass a person because of the personís race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth or medical conditions related to them, as well as gender and perception of gender), sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income , or disability.   California law also prohibits discrimination based on any of the following:

  • A person's medical condition or mental or physical disability; or
  • Personal characteristics, such as a person's physical appearance or sexual orientation that are not related to the responsibilities of a tenant; or

  • A perception of a person's race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability or medical condition, or a perception that a person is associated with another person who may have any of these characteristics.

   Under California law, youcannot use a financial or income standard for persons who want to live together and combine their incomes that is different from your standard for married persons who combine their incomes. In the case of a government rent subsidy, when you are assessing a potential tenant's eligibility for a rental unit you must use a financial or income standard that is based on the portion of rent that the tenant would pay.   You cannot apply rules, regulations or policies to unmarried couples who are registered domestic partners that do not apply to married couples. Nor can you inquire as to the immigration status of the tenant or prospective tenant or require that a tenant or prospective tenant make any statement concerning his or her immigration or citizenship status. However, you can request information or documents in order to verify and applicant's identity and financial qualifications.

It is illegal for you to discriminate against families with children under 18. However, housing for senior citizens may exclude families with children. "Housing for senior citizens" includes housing that is occupied only by persons who are at least age 62, or housing that is operated for occupancy by persons who are at least age 55 and that meets other occupancy, policy and reporting requirements stated in the law.

Limited exceptions for single rooms and roommates

If you live in and own a single-family home and are renting out a room in the home to a roomer or a boarder, and there are no other roomers or boarders living in the household, you are not subject to the restrictions listed under.

However, make sure you don't make any oral or written statements, or use notices or advertisements which indicate any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, or disability. Further, you cannot discriminate on the basis of medical condition or age.

If you live in a single-family dwelling and you advertise for a roommate, you may express a preference on the basis of gender, if living areas (such as the kitchen, living room, or bathroom) will be shared by the roommate.

Examples of Unlawful Discrimination

Unlawful housing discrimination can take a variety of forms. Under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act and Unruh Civil Rights Act, it is unlawful for you, or your managing agent, real estate broker, or salesperson to discriminate against any person because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth or medical conditions related to them, as well as gender and perception of gender), sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, medical condition, or age in any of the following ways:

  • Refusing to sell, rent, or lease.

  • Refusing to negotiate for a sale, rental, or lease.

  • Representing that housing is not available for inspection, sale, or rental when it is, in fact, available.

  • Otherwise denying or withholding housing accommodations.

  • Providing inferior housing terms, conditions, privileges, facilities, or services.

  • Harassing a person in connection with housing accommodations.

  • Canceling or terminating a sale or rental agreement.

  • Providing segregated or separated housing accommodations.

  • Refusing to permit a person with a disability, at the person with a disability's own expense, to make reasonable modifications to a rental unit that are necessary to allow the person with a disability "full enjoyment of the premises." As a condition of making the modifications, the landlord may require the person with a disability to enter into an agreement to restore the interior of the rental unit to its previous condition at the end of the tenancy (excluding reasonable wear and tear).

  • Refusing to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services when necessary to allow a person with a disability "equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling" (for example, refusing to allow a person with a disability's companion or service dog).

Resolving housing discrimination problems

If a Tenant claims to be a victim of housing discrimination (for example, if  he/she claims you refused to rent to the person because of  that person's race or national origin), you may if you're unsuccessfull in fighting the allegation be faced with several possible results.

  • You may be ordered to pay that person's out-of-pocket losses.

  • You may be faced with an injunction prohibiting the unlawful practice.

  • You could be ordered to allow the person access to housing that they claim was denied to them.

  • They could receive damages for emotional distress.

  • There could be further Civil penalties or punitive damages.

  • You could be ordered to pay the person's attorney's fees.

Sometimes, a court may order the you to take specific action to stop a perceived unlawful discrimination. For example, you could be ordered to advertise vacancies in newspapers published by ethnic minority groups, or to place fair housing posters in the rental office.

Discrimination must be avoided at all costs, either by you or by your Manager.  Make sure all employees are trained so that they do not inadvertently discriminate against anyone.  There are people who prey upon unsuspecting Landlords.  To make sure that you are not discriminating, make sure you have a good financial reason for not renting to anyone.  Make sure you keep all applications for a rental unit, and that you mark on the application the reason for denying a person.