As a landlord you must remain informed of a number of landlord-tenant laws in order to conduct your rental business legally. At the heart of this endeavor stands the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which was passed with the goal of providing housing equality.

In this article, we’ll explore the nuances of the Fair Housing Act in California, delving into its historical roots, key provisions, and the responsibilities it places on landlords.

Understanding the Fair Housing Act in California

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is a robust piece of legislation designed to ensure equal housing opportunities for all residents. Key provisions of the California Fair Housing Act include:

Protected Classes

The act prohibits discrimination based on religion, race, color, national origin, sex, marital status, ancestry, familial status, disability, and genetic information. California's law also provides additional protections compared to federal law, such as safeguarding against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Landlords, property managers, and other housing providers are legally obligated to treat all individuals fairly and equally, regardless of their membership in any of these protected classes. Discrimination against any of these classes in housing-related activities is a violation of the Fair Housing Act in California.

Prohibited Practices

Landlords are prohibited from refusing to rent or lease housing based on an individual's membership in a protected class. Discriminatory advertising, misrepresenting a property as unavailable when it is, or indicating a preference for certain groups of people are also prohibited.

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Violations can result in legal consequences, including fines and penalties. Landlords should always consult legal professionals if they have questions about their obligations under the Fair Housing Act in California.

Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications

There are specific accessibility standards that housing providers must adhere to in order to ensure that their properties are accessible to individuals with disabilities. These standards are designed to create accessible living spaces and common areas, making it possible for people with disabilities to use and enjoy the housing facilities on an equal basis with others.

This includes changes to rules, policies, practices, or services to enable people with disabilities to use and enjoy a dwelling. Tenants with disabilities have the right to make reasonable modifications to the premises at their own expense to ensure the dwelling is accessible. Landlords are generally required to permit such modifications as well as allow service animals.

Retaliation Protection

Under the Fair Housing Act in California, retaliation refers to any adverse actions taken by a landlord against a tenant because they have asserted their rights under fair housing laws. Landlords are, therefore, prohibited from retaliating against anyone who exercises their rights under the Fair Housing Act, such as filing a complaint or assisting someone in doing so.

Exceptions

Some exceptions exist for owner-occupied dwellings with four or fewer units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a real estate broker, and certain religious organizations or private clubs.

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It's important to note that while these exemptions exist, they are specific and limited. Landlords and property owners should always consult legal professionals to ensure they are in compliance with federal, state, and local fair housing laws, even if they believe an exemption might apply to their situation.

Responsibilities of Landlords According to the California Fair Housing Act

Landlords in California have several responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act to ensure they comply with anti-housing discrimination laws the Sale and Rental,Refuse to negotiate for housing) and provide equal housing opportunities to all tenants.

For instance, as previously stated, landlords must treat all prospective tenants and tenants equally, regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, disability, or genetic information.

They’re also required to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities. This might include allowing a service animal, providing reserved parking spaces, or making changes to rules or policies to accommodate a disability.

Here are some of the other key responsibilities you have under the Fair Housing Act in California:

  • Tenants with disabilities have the right to make reasonable modifications to the premises, which might include installing grab bars or ramps, at their own expense to ensure accessibility.
  • Landlords should apply consistent screening criteria to all applicants.
  • A property owner must carry out eviction for legally justified reasons and not on the basis of a tenant’s protected classes.
  • Landlords should respond promptly to tenant maintenance requests and complaints, regardless of the tenant's protected status.

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What’s more, landlords should also maintain records of all transactions, applications, leases, and correspondence related to their rental properties. These records can serve as evidence of fair and consistent practices. Additionally, if a landlord employs staff, they should be educated and trained on fair housing laws to ensure compliance.

In addition to Federal legislation and laws in the state of California, landlords should be aware of and remain up-to-date on any local fair housing ordinances that might impose added requirements or protections in their specific area.

Bottom Line

In California, the Fair Housing Act is not merely a set of regulations, it ensures fairness and justice for everyone seeking housing. Property owners should also remain informed of other rental legislation that dictates the use of security deposits and other rental ordiances.

Keeping track of your responsibilities as a landlord can be overwhelming so it could be helpful to partner with a reliable property management company. It’s recommended for landlords to reach out an expert property manager like Graf Property Management for better practices. Contact us today to learn about our trusted property management services!


Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided in this blog is intended for general guidance and should not be considered as a replacement for professional legal advice. It is important to be aware that laws pertaining to property management may change, rendering this information outdated by the time you read it.