Housing FAQ’s

What housing is covered by the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)?

The FEHA covers the sale or rental of most housing accommodations, including homes, condominiums, apartments, mobile home parks, group homes and shelters. Housing accommodation owners (including the state), managing agents, real estate brokers, mortgage lenders and homeowners associations also are covered. FEHA does not cover: (a) Refusal to rent a portion of an owner-occupied single-family house to a roomer or boarder when only one roomer or boarder is to live in the household and the owner does not publish any discriminatory notices, statements, or advertisements; and (b) stating or implying that housing is available only to persons of one sex, where sharing of living areas in a single dwelling is involved.

Must I be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident to file a complaint of housing discrimination?

No. The FEHA applies to California tenants and applicants regardless of their citizenship or immigration status. DFEH does not inquire about a complainant’s citizenship or immigration status.

What are the time limits for filing a complaint of housing discrimination?

In general, a complaint of housing discrimination must be filed within one year from the date an alleged discriminatory act occurred.

If I already filed a complaint with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), can I also file with DFEH?

If a complaint has been filed with HUD, it will automatically be filed with DFEH as well. In most cases, HUD will send the complaint to DFEH for investigation. If a complaint is filed with DFEH and alleges facts that would violate the federal Fair Housing Act, the complaint is automatically filed with HUD, although DFEH will investigate.

How does a person file a complaint of housing discrimination?

Start by filing an “Intake Form” You can find that form using any of the following methods:

  • Online by creating an account and using our interactive California Civil Rights System, CCRS. When you begin, you will see instructions how to open a free account. From then on you can use the service to communicate with DFEH.
  • Call the Communication Center at 800-884-1684 (voice). If you are deaf or hard of hearing, please call 800-884-1684 (voice or 711 relay operator) or 800-700-2320 (TTY)
  • Print and fill out a hard copy of the “Intake Form” form that matches your issue and send it:
How does DFEH conduct an investigation?

DFEH gathers evidence to determine if a complainant’s allegations can be proven. The individual filing the complaint is the complainant, and the housing provider is the respondent. The investigative process includes gathering evidence from both sides, interviewing the parties and witnesses, and reviewing records. An investigation may be conducted on site and/or through telephone interviews. DFEH 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 FEHA has occurred.

How long does DFEH retain investigative records?

DFEH retains records for 3 years after a case is closed.

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 housing complaint with DFEH before filing a complaint in court?

No. A person may file directly in court without first filing a complaint with DFEH. This is different than filing an employment case, which must first be filed with DFEH before a person can file a complaint in court. The time limit for filing in court is two years from the date of the alleged discrimination. If a complaint has been filed with DFEH, the two-year time period does not include the time DFEH spent processing the case. If DFEH has completed its investigation and found evidence of discriminatory housing practices, DFEH’s attorneys will prosecute the case in court on behalf of the Department, and the complainant, who is a real party in interest.

Does DFEH help people find housing or resolve landlord/tenant problems connected with their current housing?

DFEH does not help people find housing. It can only help resolve landlord/tenant problems that involve discrimination or harassment due to race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, or another protected basis.

DFEH can help with: DFEH does not help with:
  • Unequal terms or provisions of housing due to any protected basis
  • For example, a landlord who refuses to make repairs for tenants of a certain race
  • Harassment due to any protected basis
  • For example, a landlord who makes unwelcome sexual advances on a tenant or who uses racial slurs and insults to demean tenants because of their race
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  • Plumbing, heating, or electrical problems
  • Failure to make repairs
  • Pests or vermin
  • Excessive noise
  • Entry without enough notice
  • Eviction without enough notice
  • Violation of rent-control laws
  • Failure to return security deposit
Does DFEH help people resolve problems connected with subprime 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 General’s Office, which enforces the UCL. Consumers can also file complaints against residential mortgage lenders with the California Department of Corporations, which licenses and regulates lenders. However, if residential predatory lending has occurred because of discrimination against a protected category covered by FEHA, DFEH has jurisdiction and should be able to assist those aggrieved borrowers.