State law prohibits discrimination in housing

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is responsible for enforcing state fair housing laws that make it illegal to discriminate because of the categories listed in the box “Who is Protected?” The law applies to landlords, real estate agents, home sellers, builders, mortgage lenders, and others. The law prohibits discrimination in all aspects of the housing business, including:

  • Renting or leasing
  • Sales
  • Mortgage lending and insurance
  • Advertising
  • Practices such as restrictive covenants
  • New construction

Some examples of housing discrimination

When based on the categories listed in the box “Who is Protected,” it is illegal to:

  • Refuse to sell, rent, or lease rooms, apartments, condos or houses
  • Represent that a housing accommodation is not available for inspection, sale, or rental when it is in fact available
  • Deny a home loan or homeowner’s insurance
  • Offer inferior terms, conditions, privileges, facilities or services in connection with the housing accommodation
  • Refuse to permit, at a disabled tenant’s expense, reasonable modifications when necessary to accommodate a disability
  • Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in housing rules, policies, practices, or services where necessary to afford a disabled person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling
  • Retaliate against someone filing a complaint or asserting their rights under the fair housing law.

Here is a list of more unlawful practices plus more resources.

Housing designed for seniors is exempt

Housing designed to meet the physical and/or social needs of senior citizens is exempt from the law. Housing that meets these requirements can legally exclude households with children. Similar provisions are provided for senior citizen mobile home parks under federal fair housing laws.

What remedies are available?

State law provides for a variety of remedies for victims of housing discrimination, including:

  • Recovery of out-of-pocket losses.
  • An injunction prohibiting the unlawful practice.
  • Access to housing that the landlord denied you.
  • Damages for emotional distress.
  • Civil penalties or punitive damages.
  • Attorney’s fees.

Here are details on filing a housing complaint and what resources are available.

Who is protected?

California law protects individuals from illegal discrimination by housing providers based on the following:

  • Ancestry, national origin
  • Citizenship*
  • Disability, mental or physical
  • Familial status
  • Gender identity, gender expression
  • Genetic information
  • Immigration status*
  • Marital status
  • Military and Veteran Status
  • Primary language*
  • Race, color
  • Religion
  • Sex, gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Source of income

*Covered under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which applies to most housing accommodations in California

Disability requirements

For details on how housing providers are required to accommodate those with disabilities, click here.h

DFEH cooperates with HUD

DFEH may file signed complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) if the matter falls within the jurisdiction of that agency. As a substantially equivalent agency, DFEH’s findings are usually accepted by HUD.