Housing FAQ

How does a person file a complaint of housing discrimination?

To file a complaint of housing discrimination, go to the DFEH Web site homepage and click on "File a Complaint."† For assistance completing the online complaint filing process call 800-884-1684.

Is there a time limit for filing a housing complaint with the Department?

Yes. A complaint must be filed within one year of the date of the alleged discrimination.

If a person has already filed a complaint with the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), can he/she also file with the Department?

If a complaint has been filed with HUD, it will automatically be filed with the Department as well. In most instances, HUD will send the complaint to the Department for investigation. Similarly, if a complaint is filed with the Department and is jurisdictional with HUD, it will also be filed with that agency. Filing the complaint with both agencies benefits the parties by providing a second level of review.

How does the Department conduct an investigation?

The Department is a neutral fact-finding agency. Department staff conduct impartial investigations in which records are reviewed and relevant witnesses are interviewed. An investigation may be conducted on site and/or through telephone interviews. The Department has the authority to take depositions, issue subpoenas and interrogatories and seek temporary restraining orders during the course of its investigation. All evidence gathered is analyzed to determine if a violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act has occurred. In making its determination the Department considers evidence from both sides as well as from any neutral parties the Department may have contacted.

What remedies are available to persons who file complaints of housing discrimination?

The remedies available for housing discrimination include:

  • Sale or rental of the housing accommodation
  • Elimination of the discriminatory practice
  • Policy changes
  • Reasonable accommodation
  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Actual damages, including damages for emotional distress
  • Punitive damages
  • Attorney fees and costs†

Does a person have to file a complaint with the Department before filing a complaint in court?

No. A person may file directly in court without first filing a complaint with the Department. The time limit for filing in court is two years from the date of the alleged discrimination. If a complaint has been filed with the Department, the two-year time period does not include the time that the Department spent processing the case. If the Department has completed its investigation and found evidence of discriminatory housing practices, the Department's attorneys will prosecute the case in court on behalf of the Department.

Can a landlord refuse to rent to families with children?

Generally, a landlord cannot refuse to rent to an applicant because there are children in the family. Moreover, the requirements for rental and the terms and conditions must be the same for families with children as for any other applicant or tenant. The one exception to this rule involves housing that has been specifically designed for senior citizens (persons 55 and older or 62 and older). To qualify as "senior housing", a housing accommodation must meet specific legally-defined requirements which may include a minimum number of units, age-based residency limits and design features.

If a tenant with a disability needs to modify his/her unit, is the landlord required to pay for the modification?

Normally not. In most instances, the tenant is responsible for all costs connected to the modification. Moreover, under certain circumstances the tenant may be required to restore the premises to the condition that existed before the modification (other than for reasonable wear and tear). There are, however, certain types of HUD subsidized housing programs that require a landlord to pay for disability-related reasonable modifications.

Does the Department help persons find housing or resolve landlord/tenant problems connected with their current housing?

No. Finding housing and resolving landlord/tenant problems are not handled by the Department. The Department only handles problems related to discrimination in housing.

Does the Department help persons resolve problems connected with subproof residential mortgage lending?

Predatory lending is primarily a consumer law issue affecting all borrowers. Consumers can best seek relief under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) by filing complaints against those businesses with the California Attorney Generalís Office, which enforces the UCL. Consumers can also file complaints against residential mortgage lenders with the California Department of Corporations, which licenses and regulates the lenders. However, if residential predatory lending has occurred because of discrimination against a protected category stated in the FEHA, the DFEH has jurisdiction and should be able to assist those aggrieved borrowers.

Can senior housing be developed and/or reserved exclusively for members of the LGBT community?

No. California fair housing law prohibits any discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation. This means that persons cannot be excluded from housing because of their sexual orientation and housing cannot be marketed in any way that indicates a preference, limitation or discrimination based on sexual orientation.