Housing Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation

Housing and Rental Discrimination

Under the California Fair Housing and Employment Act (FEHA), it is unlawful for a landlord, or property manager,to harass and discriminate against a tenant on the basis of:

  • Race / Color
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Sex (including gender, pregnancy, and childbirth)
  • Sexual Orientation
  • MaritalStatus
  • NationalOrigin / Ancestry
  • Familial Status
  • Source of Income
  • Disability (physical, mental, and other medical conditions)

Under FEHA, examples of rental and housing discrimination are:

  • Refusing to sell, rent, or lease housing
  • Representing that a housing is unavailable forrental, sale, or inspection (when it is available)
  • Any other denial or withholding of housing accommodations
  • Providing inferior terms, conditions, privileges, facilities, or services in connection with housing
  • Harassment in connection to housing
  • Providing segregated or separated housing
  • Refusing to allow reasonable modifications of a rentalproperty to a disabled person (at the expense of the disabled person), if the modifications are necessary for full enjoyment of the property

Similar to employment discrimination, in order to prove housing discrimination, the tenant (plaintiff) must prove the following:

  1. That the tenant was a member of a protected group (race, religion, sex, age, disability, etc.)
  2. That the landlord used adverse conduct against the tenant (such as refusal to rent, providing inferior terms and facilities, etc.)
  3. That the discrimination was intentional or that it had adiscriminatory effect
  4. That there was a causal connection between protected group status (no. 1) and the landlord’s adverse rental practice (no. 2)

Tenants that have been subject to such unlawful discrimination may be entitled to money compensation for:

  • Recovery of out-of-pocket losses
  • Damages for emotional distress
  • Civil penalties or punitive damages
  • Attorney’s fees

Housing Retaliation and Retaliatory Evictions

It is illegal in Californiato harass, evict, or discriminate against a tenant inretaliation for the tenant exercising his/her legal rights. For example, opposingunlawful housing practices, calling the policeregarding housing violations, andtestifying or assisting in any FEHA proceeding are all tenants’ legal rights. Accordingly, landlords may not retaliate and punish tenants by evicting them, raising their rent, reducing services, and other retaliatory acts. When the landlord acts in a way that forces the tenant to move out, by violating the lease so that the rental property is no longer fit for living/business, that is a constructiveeviction and the landlord may also be held liable. The law assumes that the landlord acted in retaliation if the landlord seeks to evict the tenant (or takes other retaliatory action) within 6 months after the tenant has exercised any of the following tenant rights:

  • Using the repair and deduct remedy, or telling the landlord that the tenant is intending on using that remedy
  • Complaining about the condition of the rental property to the landlord, or to a public agency
  • Filing a lawsuit against the landlord because of the rental property’s condition
  • Causing a public agency to inspect the rental property or to issue a citation to the landlord

If you have been discriminated against by your landlord, or if you have faced retaliation for exercising a legal right under California law, you may be able to file a lawsuit against your landlord and get money compensation. Call the office today at (213) 316-8844 for a free consultation.