9. Discrimination Cases

Frequently Asked Questions

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There are many types of discrimination claims that a tenant might have which could develop prior to one’s tenancy or during one’s tenancy. Most tenant discrimination cases are filed pursuant to state law and the two major statutes which protect tenants against housing discrimination are the Unruh Civil Rights Act (hereafter “Unruh” at Calif. Civil Code Sections 51-52) and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (hereafter “FEHA”). Unruh states the following: “All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, citizenship, primary language, or immigration status are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.” These protections can be enforced not only against landlords but against agents of property management companies, master tenants and realtors. The aforementioned persons described in Unruh are known as “protected classes”.

Discrimination under FEHA with respect to tenants means the following: “Discrimination includes refusal to sell, rent, or lease housing accommodations; includes refusal to negotiate for … rental, or lease of housing accommodations; includes representation that a housing accommodation is not available for inspection, sale, or rental when that housing accommodation is in fact so available; includes any other denial or withholding of housing accommodations; includes provision of inferior terms, conditions, privileges, facilities, or services in connection with those housing accommodations; includes harassment in connection with those housing accommodations; includes the cancellation or termination of a sale or rental agreement; includes the provision of segregated or separated housing accommodations; includes the refusal to permit, at the expense of the disabled person, reasonable modifications of existing premises occupied or to be occupied by the disabled person, if the modifications may be necessary to afford the disabled person full enjoyment of the premises, except that, in the case of a rental, the landlord may, where it is reasonable to do so condition permission for a modification on the renter’s agreeing to restore the interior of the premises to the condition that existed before the modification (other than for reasonable wear and tear), and includes refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services when these accommodations may be necessary to afford a disabled person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.”

Sexual harassment cases are generally filed under FEHA or Unruh.

If you believe you have been discriminated against, contact us immediately, especially considering that discrimination law is very complicated and in addition there is a one year statute of limitations under the Unruh Civil Rights Act and a two year statute of limitations under FEHA.

There is a $4000 minimum for discriminatory acts which do not involve violence but no more than 3 times the actual damages plus attorneys fees under Unruh and a $25,000 minimum if there is violence or the threat of violence (See Civil Code Section 52). There is no minimum verdict under FEHA but it does permit a tenant to recover not only actual damages like under Unruh, but it provides for the recovery of emotional distress damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees.

Under federal law, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, (42 U.S.C. §3601 et seq.) covers the various forms of housing discrimination, however, FEHA and Unruh are generally the laws used in lawsuits against landlords and their agents.