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Understanding fair housing laws in California

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One of the most basic civil rights of every American is the right to shelter, and California is one state that drives this point home through its fair housing laws.

Background

Noted for its close similarity to federal fair housing laws, California’s counterpart has also gone through a rough history and a series of amendments before becoming what it is today.

Even before Dr. Martin Luther King’s advocacy on equality among citizens regardless of race flourished, California already had the Unruh Civil Rights Act of 1959. Under this law, local businesses were prohibited from discriminating against Californians. These businesses included housing providers like hotels, real estate agents, and property managers.

Then came the California Fair Employment and Housing Act of 1959 that provided protection for those discriminated against availing of housing by virtue of their being members of a protected class. In line with this came the creation of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing — the office where complainants of discrimination in housing can run to for help.

The Rumford Act of 1963 further laid down the foundation for fair housing rights in California. However, an association of local real estate agents attempted to have this law repealed the following year by lobbying for Proposition 14. After a legal scuffle ensued, the California Supreme Court declared the said proposition unconstitutional in 1966.

More amendments to the laws on fair housing in California came about with the aim to add more groups (e.g., people with disabilities) to the list of protected classes specified in the federal 1968 Fair Housing Act. The California Association of Realtors, a more progressive group of real estate agents, also decided to support these laws and make them part of the backbone of their group’s code of ethics.

The essence behind its existence

California’s fair housing laws have one purpose for their existence: to prevent discrimination in the aspect of housing. To specify, one cannot be discriminated from taking advantage of housing opportunities based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Familial status (i.e., children below 18 who are living with parents/legal custodians, pregnant women, and those seeking custody of children below 18)
  • Handicap
  • Age
  • Ancestry
  • Citizenship
  • Gender identity and gender expression
  • Genetic information
  • Immigration status
  • Marital status
  • Primary language
  • Sexual orientation
  • Source of income
  • Other arbitrary bases (e.g., occupation or veteran status)

Exemptions

While the federal counterpart contains more exemptions, the primary exemptions in the California Fair Housing Act only apply to:

  • Owner-occupied single-family homes with a single tenant and the owner complies with FEHA prohibitions against discrimination in housing.
  • Housing operated by exclusive groups that intentionally limit occupancy to its members.
  • Statements bearing preference for same-sex individuals in shared living conditions.

Fair housing amendments for people with disabilities in California

Having been added more recently among the protected classes when the Fair Housing Amendments Act became law in 1988, people with disabilities now have a fundamental set of dos and don’ts with regard to fair housing protection. You can read more about these here.

It will be to your advantage to find out about laws that can affect your search for a home in any of the communities in La Cañada Flintridge, Pasadena, Glendale, La Crescenta, or Altadena. To assist in these delicate matters and to guide you in your home-buying journey, talk to me — Kathy Seuylemezian— and my able team. Contact us today at 818.949.5205 or email me at kathy(at)imuragent(dotted)com.