What is Fair Housing?
The right of all people to live wherever they choose, to have access to housing (seek, purchase, sell, lease or rent) and enjoy the full use of their homes without unlawful discrimination, interference, coercion, threats or intimidation.
In California, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibit discrimination in housing advertising, negotiation, sale and during a resident's stay.
California law expands the protections afforded under the Federal law and extends the protections afforded to protected classes. Under California law, it is unlawful for a landlord, managing agent, real estate broker, or salesperson to discriminate against a person or harass a person in a protected class. A property owner cannot make oral or written statements, or use notices or advertisements that indicate any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on a protected class status.
Reasonable modification requests are any requests for changes to the structure, fixtures or property when necessary to afford equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. There are sldo no "magic words" necessary to make a reasonable modification request. But the request should be clear that it is a request for a change in light of a disability, and the person making the request must pay for the modification made to the property and pay for its removal when they no longer reside on the property.*
Common Reasonable Modification Requests Include:
Adding guard rails in bathrooms.
Changes to the soundproofing of walls to reduce noise.
Removing carpet to reduce particle build up in the air.
Widening doors to allow for a wheelchair to enter and exit.
*Although tenants are generally responsible for paying the costs of the modifications, this is not the case if the modifications should already be in place. Many apartment complexes that were built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, do not meet all of the accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Act.
If the apartment complex is not in compliance with the accessibility requirements, the owner of the complex must pay for any modifications that a tenant requests in order to bring the complex into compliance. Furthermore, if the tenant lives at an apartment complex that receives federal funds, the tenant can, in most cases, request that the owner of the apartment complex pay for the modifications, as an accommodation to the tenant.
Enforcement and Liability
Fair Housing violations can result in lawsuits for monetary damages and are prosecuted in a variety of ways:
•Civil suits with damages and attorneys’ fees
•Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) investigation and prosecution.
•Housing and Urban Development (HUD) investigation and prosecution.
•As remedies and defenses to evictions and other matters in Federal and State Courts
•Landlords should be proactive in engaging in the interactive process, especially when a reasonable accomodation or modification request may have been made. Violations can pile up, and investigators may not inquire until months after a violation is reported. Multiple violations could be reported before an official notification of investigation or a law suit.
Once a complaint is filed with HUD or the DEFH, the process can take several months to resolve.