Housing FAQs

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

The FEHA includes most residential accommodation, including homes, condominiums, flats, mobile home parks, group homes, and shelters, for sale or lease.  

Housing owners (including the government), managers, actual property brokers, mortgage lenders and organizations of homeowners are also protected. 

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. 

Are tenants or applicants with disabilities entitled to special treatment?

Yes, they are eligible for reasonable accommodations. Although not discriminating usually means treating everyone the same, disability discrimination is different. When necessary for people with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to enjoy housing, the housing provider must allow them to make reasonable modifications to the premises and must make reasonable accommodations, meaning changes to rules, practices, and services.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is a change in the way things are done that helps residents or applicants with disabilities have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy housing, such as changing a policy or rule.

Can Be Reasonable Accommodations

  • Reserved parking spaces
  • Making exceptions to a no-pets policy
  • Changing the deadline to pay rent
  • Allowing a third party to cosign the lease or pay the rent
  • Allowing a live-in aide
  • Delaying eviction
  • Modifying the terms of a lease

Not Reasonable Accommodations

  • Reducing the rent
  • Permitting the use of illegal drugs
  • Adding an elevator to a building without one

Can a housing provider have a “no pets” rule?

Yes, but the housing provider must make exceptions to the rule, which are called reasonable accommodations, when necessary for people with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to enjoy housing. Refusing to allow necessary service animals or emotional-support animals is illegal discrimination. Service animals and emotional-support animals are not subject to breed, size, or weight restrictions ordinarily applied to pets, and tenants must not be charged pet deposits or pet rent for them.

If a tenant with a disability needs to modify the rental unit, is the housing provider required to pay for the modification?

A reasonable modification is a structural change made to existing premises, interior or exterior, occupied or to be occupied by a person with a disability for the person to have full enjoyment of the premises.

In most instances, the tenant is responsible for all costs connected to the modification but a landlord or homeowners association (HOA) cannot refuse to allow a reasonable request. 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). Because accessible parking spaces are accommodations, not modifications, the landlord/HOA is required to pay for the costs associated with providing accessible parking.

However, federally assisted housing providers must pay for disability-related reasonable modifications. Please see HUD.gov for more information.

How does a housing provider know when someone really has a disability and needs accommodation or modification?

If a housing provider is skeptical of a tenant’s alleged disability, the provider can ask the tenant for medical verification of the disability-related need for accommodation or modification. The housing provider is only entitled to verification that the tenant has a disability, not identification of the disability or diagnosis and that there is an identifiable relationship between the requested accommodation and the individual’s disability.

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. California Civil Rights Department (CRD) 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 CRD?

If a complaint has been filed with HUD, it will automatically be filed with CRD as well. In most cases, HUD will send the complaint to CRD for investigation. If a complaint is filed with CRD and alleges facts that would violate the federal Fair Housing Act, the complaint is automatically filed with HUD, although CRD 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 the California Civil Rights System, CCRS. When you begin, you will see instructions on how to open a free account. From then on you can use the service to communicate with CRD.

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 CRD conduct an investigation?

CRD 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. CRD 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 CRD retain investigative records?

CRD 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 CRD before filing a complaint in court?

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

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

CRD can 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

CRD does not help with:

  • List item
  • 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 a security deposit

Does CRD 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, CRD has jurisdiction and should be able to assist those aggrieved borrowers.

Resource provided by https://calcivilrights.ca.gov