If you want to be a successful landlord in California, you have to understand and comply with the state's landlord-tenant laws, which regulate issues such as rent increases, security deposits, evictions, and fair housing.

In this blog, we’ll cover the Fair Housing Act in California. We will discuss the protected classes, the prohibited practices, and the consequences of violating the law. Keep reading to know your rights and responsibilities so you can protect yourself and learn the importance of treating your tenants fairly.

What Is the Fair Housing Act and Why Is It Important?

The Federal Fair Housing Act is a federal law that protects individuals from housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. This law applies to both rental housing and homeownership. In California, there are additional protected classes.

Everyone deserves the right to live in a safe and secure place, free from discrimination. Under fair housing laws, there are certain protected characteristics such as race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, marital status, and family status.

Fair housing laws allow everyone to have the same opportunity to find safe and secure housing regardless of their background or identity.

Close up of a hand signing a document with a fountain pen

Why Should You Care?

As a landlord, you should care about fair housing laws in California because the success of your rental business depends on it. You might have to pay a fine if you violate the law. Additionally, you may lose your rental license. Here are three things that the Fair Housing Act is focused on:

No Discrimination

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for landlords and homeowners to discriminate against individuals who are looking for housing. This means that landlords and homeowners cannot refuse to rent or sell a house based on a person's race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability.

Equal Treatment

In addition, the Act also prohibits landlords from charging higher rents based on any of the protected classes.

Fair Advertising

The Fair Housing Act also makes it illegal for landlords to advertise a rental in a way that discriminates against certain individuals. This means that a landlord cannot advertise a rental in a way that only attracts certain groups, such as "no children allowed".

Who Oversees Fair Housing in California?

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing is responsible for enforcing the Fair Housing Act in California. The department has the authority to investigate complaints of discrimination and can impose fines or other penalties on landlords or homeowners who violate the law.

Desk set up in front of a window with an open laptop, water bottle, and iphone

What Discrimination Does the Fair Housing Act Prohibit?

Housing discrimination is defined as any action taken by a landlord, real estate agent, or other person trying to unfairly prevent or limit access to housing.

This can take many forms, from subtle forms of exclusion to outright bigotry. For example, steering potential tenants away from certain neighborhoods due to their race. This type of discrimination is illegal under the Fair Housing Act.

In California, there are 15 protected classes:

  • Race
  • Ancestry or national origin
  • Citizenship or immigration status
  • Primary language
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Disability, mental or physical
  • Sex, gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity, gender expression
  • Genetic information
  • Marital status
  • Familial status
  • Source of income
  • Military or veteran status

There are some exemptions to these rules. For example, housing built specifically for seniors is allowed to deny renters under a certain age. However, if you own a standard single-family rental property or a multi-unit apartment building, these exemptions will not be relevant.

Best Practices to Ensure Fair Housing

There are a number of things you can do to ensure you are following the rules of fair housing.

1. Know the Laws

As a landlord in California, it is important to familiarize yourself with the Fair Housing Act and understand the rules and regulations it sets out for landlords. This includes understanding the protected classes and the rules associated with them.

Wooden gavel in the foreground with a lawyer signing a document in the background

2. Advertise Fairly

Landlords should ensure that all advertisements for apartments or homes are free from any discriminatory language or images. This includes all online postings and printed materials.

3. Treat All Prospective Tenants Equally

Landlords should ensure that all prospective tenants are treated equally and fairly, regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability.

4. Maintain Equal Access

Landlords should provide equal access to all tenants, including those with disabilities. This includes providing reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities, such as accessible parking or special features for those with mobility issues. For tenants with disabilities, you are also not allowed to charge a pet deposit for a service animal.

5. Follow Fair Screening Practices

Use the same criteria to screen all tenants and should not discriminate against any tenants based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability.

6. Comply with State and Local Laws

Be aware of any state and local laws that may impose additional requirements or provide additional protections for tenants.

7. Keep Records

You should keep records of all tenant applications and communications to ensure they are complying with the Fair Housing Act.

Bottom Line

The Fair Housing Act is an essential component of California's rental housing landscape. It's important for you to understand your rights and responsibilities under the law.

Landlords must take steps to ensure their rental policies comply with the Fair Housing Act. It is also essential that you become familiar with landlord-tenant laws in your local area. Knowing your local laws can help you protect yourself from potential legal issues.

We know this can feel overwhelming. That’s why Action Properties is here to help. We are well-versed in California landlord-tenant laws and can make owning a rental property easier than ever. Contact us today to learn more about our property management services!

This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regards to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.