If you're renting or looking for an apartment in California, you're covered by the Fair Housing Act, a law that protects tenants and prospective tenants from illegal housing discrimination based on a number of protected classes.
Fair Housing in California
The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in home sales, financing, and rentals based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Federal fair housing law, which extends to California, protects apartment dwellers' right to enjoy access to housing based on seven protected classes. They include:
California Protected Classes
California's non-discrimination laws are considered progressive. In addition to the protected classes above, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) offers legal protection based on:
- Sexual orientation: The LGBT community is protected from housing discrimination in California.
- Gender identity and gender expression: California's Gender Nondiscrimination Act, enacted in 2012, protects transgender and gender non-conforming people from housing and employment discrimination.
- Marital status: Whether you are single, married or widowed, you're protected under FEHA.
- Medical condition: Having any medical condition cannot disqualify you from access to housing.
- Ancestry: Your family's ancestral roots cannot be considered in the housing process.
- Source of income: Judgement and discrimination about where you are employed and how you make your money cannot factor into a landlord's decision to lease you a property.
- Age: People over the age of 40 are protected.
- Genetic information: A landlord cannot discriminate based on information about genetic tests and the genetic tests of an individual’s family members, as well as information about the manifestation of a disease or disorder in an individual’s family members (also known as family medical history).
- Arbitrary discrimination: You cannot be discriminated against for any other arbitrary reason.
How to Spot Discrimination
If you are told one thing on the phone by a landlord but are told different terms, pricing or availability upon a landlord seeing you in person, this is one sign that you are being discriminated against. Other red flags include being told that a different apartment might fit your situation better; having a prospective landlord tell you about background or criminal checks over and over; refusal to provide handicapped parking; and being told there is a no pets policy, even if you have a service animal, among other issues.
Filing a Housing Discrimination Complaint
Everyone deserves access to fair housing. If you believe you've experienced housing discrimination or harassment, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) can help you seek justice. If you need to report discrimination, follow these steps:
- Contact the DFEH in writing or by calling 1-800-884-1684.
- Provide specific facts about the incident, including when and where it occurred, plus the parties involved.
- Provide copies of documents that support the charges in your complaint, if you can.
- Keep records and documents about the complaint, such as rent receipts, applications and other potential proof of discrimination.
If the DFEH accepts your complaint, the department will conduct an unbiased investigation. The DFEH will look at all of the facts presented and determine if the California Fair Employment and Housing Act have been violated.