April is Fair Housing Month and commemorates the 1968 passage of the federal Fair Housing Act, pivotal legislation prohibiting discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, or national origin. California’s journey to fair housing, however, predates and extends beyond federal protections.
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) was first enacted in 1959 as the Fair Employment Practices Act. In 1980, it was renamed and expanded to include protections against housing discrimination from the 1963 Rumford Act. The combined law safeguards various protected classes, such as race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, marital status, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, ancestry, income source, genetic information, and veteran status. The California Civil Rights Department enforces FEHA by investigating complaints, mediating conflicts, and prosecuting violations.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also impacts California rental properties by requiring public and common use areas to be accessible to people with disabilities.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance, affecting California rental housing when housing providers receive federal funding or operate under federally-assisted programs.
The Unruh Civil Rights Act, a California law, prohibits discrimination by businesses, including housing providers, based on a variety of factors. It is broader than FEHA in the types of businesses covered but more limited in the specific discriminatory actions addressed.
California landlords must be familiar with these fair housing laws to ensure their properties meet the needs of all tenants and uphold the legacy of equality in the state’s rental market.