Civil Litigation Attorney Jeffrey Cowan provides experienced legal representation to individuals in Santa Monica, the Los Angeles area, and throughout California. Contact The Cowan Law Firm for skilled assistance in your housing discrimination matter.
California and federal laws prohibit housing discrimination. This means that landowners, landlords and sub-lessors – and anyone acting on their behalf (like real estate brokers and salespeople) – may not discriminate when renting or selling a home (or other real estate) based on either personal or group characteristics that the law protects because they have no relation to legitimate business needs. These protected characteristics include race, national origin, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, ancestry, disability (mental and physical), marital status, familial status (presence of children under 18 in the home, pregnant women), or source of income. As further discussed below, housing discrimination law also forbids sexual harassment by landlords and sellers or buyers of property.
The federal ban (codified in 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619) applies to all real property that is intended to be used as a long or short term residence, including the following:
- Apartment buildings
- Private homes
- Condominium developments
The federal ban also applies to almost all housing transactions, such as sale, rental, and mortgaging of land or homes. There are a few exemptions:
- (1) Renting a portion of a single-family, owner-occupied house to one person
- (2) Housing that is operated by organizations that limit occupancy to members only.
Fair Housing in Los Angeles & Santa Monica, California is Guaranteed by Law
California’s ban on housing discrimination goes further than federal law. Codified in Government Code §12900 et seq. (the Fair Employment Housing Act; aka “FEHA”) and The Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civil Code § 51), California’s anti-discrimination law applies to any type of housing that can be labeled a "business establishment," which includes operators of hotels, motels, and mobile park homes. It also extends to real estate agents, brokers, and condominium homeowners' associations.
Both California law and federal law forbid the following housing practices based on the protected group characteristics listed above:
- Refusing to rent, sell, or lease available housing
- Refusing to negotiate for the rent, sale, or lease of housing
- Setting different terms, conditions, or privileges for different buyers or tenants (for example, charging higher rent or security deposit)
- Discriminating by telling someone that the property “isn’t right for you” or “isn’t right for your family”
- Placing advertisements about the rental or sale of any housing accommodation which indicate a preference based on any of the above mentioned characteristics (for example, “adults only” or “no kids”)
- Denying access to or membership in a service or facility related to the sale of housing (such as a multiple listing service)
- Refusing to make reasonable accommodations in rules or services for a disabled person to use the housing
- Refusing to allow a disabled person to make reasonable accommodations to his/her unit (for example, refusing to let a disabled person have a service dog)
- Discriminating against any applicant for a loan to buy or build housing
California law further forbids the following practices:
- Asking about any of the protected characteristics of the person who wishes to rent, buy, or lease any housing accommodation
- Making excessive or inappropriate questions after someone in a protected group asks for information about a dwelling
- Harassing or intimidating a prospective buyer or tenant
- Providing segregated housing accommodations or steering buyers or tenants into racially segregated neighborhoods while they are house-hunting
- Canceling or terminating a sale or rental agreement
- Threatening or interfering with anyone making a fair housing complaint
- Harassing, evicting, or otherwise discriminating against any person who has filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing
- Encouraging, helping with or coercing any of these unlawful actions
Civil Litigation Lawyer Cowan fights for Fair Housing in CA
Housing discrimination also occurs when landowners, landlords, sub-lessors – and anyone acting on their behalf – engage in sexual harassment when renting or selling a home. Sexual harassment in the housing context is analogous to how it occurs in the employment context. It includes the following:
- Unwanted sexual advances
- Soliciting sexual favors in a quid pro quo context (example: offering to decrease a tenant’s rent in exchange for sex)
- Unwanted touching
- Comments of sexual nature (example: a maintenance person visits your home to fix your sink and makes sexual jokes)
Sexual harassment can victimize men and women, and perpetrators can be of the same or opposite gender as the victim. A landlord or manager who knew or should have known about sexual harassment by an agent or employee and did not stop it can also be held responsible.
Contact Housing Discrimination Attorney Jeffrey Cowan
Equally important, it is unlawful for a landlord to retaliate against a tenant for reporting, opposing or complaining about sexual harassment. Examples of unlawful retaliation include the following:
- Trying to threaten or intimidate you
- Raising the rent
- Evicting a tenant
- Refusing to make repairs
- Restricting the use of services and facilities
If your situation involves any of the above matters, please call experienced Housing Discrimination Attorneys at The Cowan Law Firm today, (310) 394-1420.