As a landlord in California, you must know and comply with many local, state, and federal laws that will affect your property and your tenant. There are security deposit laws, habitability laws, and of course – fair housing laws. You have responsibilities as a landlord, and following the fair housing laws is an important responsibility that you need to take seriously.
Understanding what you can say or do is crucial when selecting tenants for your property. Fair housing affects how you advertise, what your rental application looks like, and how you deal with your tenants. California landlords are free to reject applicants with a bad credit history or negative references from past landlords. However, asking the wrong questions or denying an application based on the wrong criteria could result in costly discrimination lawsuits.
Federal and State Fair Housing Laws
The federal Fair Housing Act prevents landlords from discriminating against potential tenants based on their race, religion, color, sex, familial status, disability, and national origin. Additionally, California landlords must comply with the Unruh Act and the Fair Employment and Housing Act. These state laws expand on the federal law, and prohibit discrimination based on:
- Sexual Orientation
- Marital Status
- Personal characteristics or traits
Everyone deserves access to fair housing. As a landlord, this means you cannot tell a potential tenant one thing on the phone, but then change your information on price and availability after you’ve met them in person. This will look like you’re discriminating based on how that tenant looks. It’s also illegal to tell a potential tenant that other properties may fit their needs better or that handicap parking is not available. These are all red flags that may lead to a discrimination suit against a landlord.
San Diego Tenant Rights
Tenants in California have many ways to fight housing discrimination. They can file an administrative complaint with HUD or the CA DFEH. These agencies will investigate a complaint, work to obtain a compromise, and hold an administrative hearing if necessary to determine if discrimination has occurred. A tenant can also sue the landlord in state or federal court. This can only happen if the tenant has not already had an administrative hearing or signed a conciliation agreement. The bottom line? You don’t want to end up in court or defending yourself against a fair housing claim.
Fair Housing Penalties
If a court or housing agency finds you guilty of discrimination, they may order you to rent to the person who filed the suit. They also may require you to pay the applicant for damages and in some cases, pay for the applicant’s attorney fees. It’s always important for a landlord to hire a good attorney in this situation.
Fair housing laws in San Diego are extremely strict, and they are also changing all the time. As professional property managers, we keep up on these laws, and we can protect you against any perceived discrimination in your screening and leasing process. If you have any questions about fair housing or anything pertaining to property management in San Diego, please feel free to contact us at AMG Props.