This is the final episode in our special video series covering state and federal fair housing laws. The prior episode covers prohibited steering and blockbusting for exploitation.

Failure to comply with the FFHA

Any individual who claims they have been injured by a prohibited discriminatory housing practice under the Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA)­ or believes they will be injured by such a practice is considered an aggrieved individual. [42 United States Code §3602(i)]

An aggrieved individual may file a complaint with the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), within one year of the alleged discriminatory housing practice. [42 USC §3610(a)]

HUD then attempts to resolve the dispute by having the parties enter into informal negotiations, called mediation. [42 USC §3610(b)]

If mediation is not successful, a judicial action may be initiated by HUD as a complaint to resolve the issue of discrimination. The dispute will then be resolved by an administrative law judge.

Any party to the complaint may elect to have the claims decided in a civil action before a court of law in lieu of using an administrative law judge. [42 USC §3612(a)]

When a real estate broker subjected to a judicial action is found guilty of discriminatory housing practices, HUD is to notify the DRE and recommend disciplinary action. [42 USC §3612(g)(5)]

When a court determines discriminatory housing practices have taken place, actual and punitive amounts of money awards may be granted. Also, an order may be issued preventing the landlord or broker from engaging in any future discriminatory housing practice. [42 USC §3613(c)(1)]

California prohibitions against discrimination

California prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of housing accommodations based on an individual’s race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, veteran or military status, or genetic information.

This list of protected individuals under state law is more extensive than all others. [Calif. Government Code §12955]

Discriminatory activities and conduct include:

  • making a written or oral inquiry into the race, sex, disability, etc. of any individual seeking to rent housing;
  • ads or notices for rental of housing which state or infer preferences or limitations based on any of the prohibited discrimination factors;
  • a broker refusing to represent an individual in a real estate transaction based on any prohibited factor; and
  • any other practice that denies housing to a member of a protected class. [Gov C §12955]

The denial of housing based on the landlord or broker’s perception that a prospective buyer or tenant has any of the protected characteristics is absolutely prohibited, whether it was done explicitly or implicitly. An individual who has been the victim of discriminatory housing practices may recover their money losses. [Gov C §12955(m)]

California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act

California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act

, another anti-discrimination law, prohibits discrimination by a business establishment based on numerous status classifications, including: an individual’s sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability or medical condition. [Calif. Civil Code §§51; 51.2; 51.3]

However, age restriction is a legitimate discrimination as long as the restriction is in a project that qualifies as a senior citizen housing development.

The Unruh Civil Rights Act applies to anyone in the business of providing housing. Brokers, developers, apartment owners, condominium owners and single family residential owners renting or selling are considered to be in the business of providing housing.

As business establishments, landlords may not boycott, blacklist, refuse to lease or rent because of the race, creed, religion, color, national origin, sex, disability or medical condition of an individual’s, or that individual’s business partners, members, stockholders, directors, officers, managers, agents, employees, business associates or customers. [CC §51.5] 

DRE regulation of discrimination

The DRE also enforces numerous regulations prohibiting discriminatory practices by real estate brokers and agents. A broker or agent found guilty of engaging in discriminatory business practices may be disciplined by the DRE. [California Department of Real Estate Regulation §2780]

DRE prohibited discriminatory practices include situations in which a broker or agent discriminates against anyone based on race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, disability, marital status or national origin.

Prohibited practices include any situation in which a broker, while acting as an agent, discriminates against anyone based on race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, disability, marital status or national origin. Examples of discriminatory practices include:

  • refusing to negotiate for the sale or rental of real estate;
  • refusing to show property or provide information, or steering clients away from specific properties;
  • refusing to accept a listing;
  • publishing or distributing advertisements that indicate a discriminatory preference;
  • any discrimination in the course of providing property management services;
  • agreeing with a client to discriminate when selling or leasing the client’s property, such as agreeing not to show the property to members of particular minority groups;
  • attempting to discourage the sale or rental of real estate based on representations of the race, sex, disability, etc. of other inhabitants in an area; and
  • encouraging or permitting employees to engage in discriminatory practices.

Blatant discriminatory practices are not as common now as they once were. However, the DRE’s focus now has shifted to more subtle forms of discrimination — implicit discrimination. Implicit discriminatory practices are not openly discriminatory, but result in discriminatory effects. Therefore, implicit discrimination is more challenging to spot, though no less deleterious to the California housing market.

A broker has a duty to advise their agents and employees of all anti-discrimination rules, including DRE regulations, the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, and the FFHA. [DRE Reg. §2725(f)]

The broker, in addition to being responsible for their own conduct, owes the public a duty to ensure their employees follow anti-discrimination regulations when acting as agents on the broker’s behalf.