The Federal Fair Housing act is officially known as Title VIII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1968. It prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or
financing of housing units based on race, color, religion, sex, or national
origin. The Fair Housing Amendments Act that became effective in 1989
amended Title VIII to prohibit discrimination based on disability or
familial status (e.g., households with children under 18 or pregnant
women); add new enforcement mechanisms; and expand the Justice Department?s
jurisdiction to file cases in federal court on behalf of victims.
Long a bellwether of national trends and developments, California was among
the first states to enact anti-discrimination legislation. In 1959, the
Unruh Civil Rights Act was enacted to prohibit businesses from
discriminating against individuals. From there, the California Legislature
passed additional measures guaranteeing Californians? rights,
The Unruh Civil Rights Act provides protection from discrimination by all
business establishments in California, including housing and public
accommodations, because of age, ancestry, color, disability, national
origin, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation, which according to case
law includes homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual individuals.
This law requires "full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities,
privileges or services in all business establishments." This includes but
is not limited to hotels and motels, non-profit organizations, restaurants,
theaters, hospitals, barber and beauty shops, housing accommodations,
public agencies and retail establishments.
The Unruh Civil Rights Act also contains the requirements for the senior
housing exemption. Housing accommodations that meet these requirements are
exempt from the familial status provisions of the Fair Employment and
Housing Act and may, therefore, legally discriminate against families with
The Unruh senior housing requirements apply to all types of housing except
mobile homes. To be exempt from familial status discrimination, mobile home
parks must meet the requirements set forth under the Federal Fair Housing
(Amendments) Act of 1988 (as amended).
This law provides for a variety of remedies, including out-of-pocket
expenses, cease and desist orders, or damages for emotional distress.
Court-ordered damages may include a maximum of three times the amount of
People who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a
complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
Complaints must be filed within one year of the alleged discrimination.
Persons wishing to file directly in court do not need a "right-to-sue" from
In addition to the Unruh Civil Rights Act, California's Fair Employment and
Housing Act also:
Prohibits discrimination and harassment in all aspects of housing
(including sales and rentals, evictions, terms and conditions, mortgage
loans and insurance, and land use and zoning).
Requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodation in rules
and practices to permit persons with disabilities to use and enjoy a
dwelling and to allow persons with disabilities to make reasonable
modifications of the premises.
Prohibits retaliation against any person who has filed a complaint with
the DFEH, participated in a DFEH investigation, or opposed any activity
prohibited by the Act.
The Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits discrimination in all aspects
of housing (rental, lease, terms and conditions, etc.) because of familial
status. Familial status is defined as having one or more individuals under
18 years of age who reside with a parent or with another person with care
and legal custody of that individual (including foster parents) or with a
designee of that parent or other person with legal custody. Familial status
also includes a pregnant woman or a person who is in the process of
adopting or otherwise securing legal custody of any individual under 18
years of age.
Housing that meets the legal definition of senior housing or housing for
older persons is exempt from the familial status provisions of the Fair
Employment and Housing Act. This means that such housing can legally
discriminate against families with children. There are three categories of
housing that meet this definition:
Housing provided under any state or federal program that the Secretary
of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) determines is specifically designed
and operated to assist elderly persons, as defined in the state or federal
Housing that meets the standards for senior housing in sections 51.2,
51.3 and 51.4 of the Civil Code (Unruh Civil Rights Act)
Mobile home parks that meet the standards for "housing for older
persons" as defined in the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 and
The law provides for a variety of remedies, which may include housing
previously denied; out-of-pocket expenses, cease-and-desist orders, damages
for emotional distress, reasonable attorney?s fees and costs, expert
witness fees, civil penalties, or court-ordered punitive damages.
People who believe they have experienced housing discrimination may file a
DFEH complaint. Complaints must be filed within one year from the date of
the alleged discriminatory act.
Persons wishing to file a lawsuit directly in court do not need a
"right-to-sue" from DFEH. Civil lawsuits must be filed within two years of
the alleged discrimination.