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Fair Housing in San Francisco, California

What You Need to Know About the Fair Housing Act in California

Fair housing in San Francisco, CA means all persons have equal opportunity to be considered for rental units, housing loans, purchase of property, and property insurance. Federal, state, and local fair housing laws protect people from discrimination in housing transactions. If you believe that your housing rights are being violated, then it is crucial to consult with our skilled San Francisco real estate attorney for further legal assistance.  At Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C., our legal team is dedicated to helping individuals and businesses navigate complex real estate issues and achieve favorable outcomes. By advocating for fair housing and holding landlords accountable for discriminatory practices, we can work towards creating a more equitable and fair housing system in California. Schedule an initial consultation with us today to ensure that your housing rights are protected.

What is the Fair Housing Act?

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) aims to ensure that prospective tenants and current tenants don’t get treated differently because of certain characteristics or attributes they have. The law prohibits discrimination in residential real estate-related transactions including financial, brokering, and appraisal services to ensure that people who are renting, buying, or securing financing for housing are treated fairly.  FHA is a legal concept that prohibits discrimination in the housing market. The actions covered under the FHA include:
  • Setting particular rules for individual tenants
  • Deciding whether to rent an apartment to a potential tenant
  • Advertising that the apartment is only available to certain people
If you feel that your rights under the FHA have been violated, you need a knowledgeable San Francisco real estate attorney on your side to help you obtain the most possible outcome in your particular situation.

What are “Protected Classes”?

A group of people who share an identified characteristic is collectively known as a protected class. A protected class is a group of people sharing a common trait who are legally protected from being discriminated against based on that trait.  When it comes to protected classes under FHA, the key to compliance is whether a property owner treats prospects and tenants differently because of the underlying characteristic that they have. Our competent San Francisco real estate lawyer can help you learn what groups of people are protected under FHA. The FHA prohibits discrimination based on eight protected classes:

1. Race

One of the central objectives of the Fair Housing Act was to prohibit racial discrimination in the sales and rentals of housing. Sometimes, landlords or property owners try to disguise their discrimination by giving false information about the availability of housing, either saying that nothing was available or steering home seekers to certain areas based on race.

2. Color of Skin

It is illegal for housing providers to treat someone differently because of the color of a person’s skin, regardless of whether that person has lighter or darker skin. For example, if a landlord or other housing provider only accepts light-skinned African Americans as tenants, but not those who are darker-skinned, that would be an example of color discrimination, regardless of the race of the landlord.

3. Familial Status

Landlords are not allowed to indirectly or explicitly turn you away based on your family status. While some landlords don’t like renting to tenants with children trying to avoid the wear and tear and the noise that kids might cause, the federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on this basis.  In addition to prohibiting an outright denial of housing to families with children, the FHA also prevents housing providers from imposing any special requirements or conditions on tenants with custody of children. 

4. National Origin

Whether it’s deliberate or carried out indirectly, discrimination based on national origin is illegal. Such discrimination can be based either upon the country of an individual’s birth or where his or her ancestors originated.

5. Religion

The FHA prohibits discrimination in housing based on religion. The act covers instances of discrimination against members of a specific religion as well as less direct actions, such as zoning ordinances designed to limit the use of private homes as places of worship. 

6. Sex

You cannot be denied a place to live or have special rules imposed on you solely because you are a male or female. 

7. Age

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on age. A landlord cannot refuse to rent to an older person or impose special terms and conditions on the tenancy unless these same standards are applied to everyone else. 

8. Disability

The FHA prohibits landlords and property owners from taking action against or denying a permit for a home because of the disability of individuals who live or would live there. Property owners must make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities. This means that a disabled tenant can expect the landlord to adjust rules, procedures, or services to a reasonable degree to provide an equal opportunity to use and enjoy her dwelling unit or common space. That can include giving lower-level units to tenants in wheelchairs and installing ramps on doorways.  The FHA does not allow discrimination against people who have:
  • physical disability
  • emotional or mental disability
  • intellectual disability
  • AIDS
  • have a history or record of such a disability

What are the Penalties for Housing Discrimination?

If the court determines that discrimination has taken place, they may force you to pay compensation to the prospective tenant you unlawfully rejected or to rent the specific rental property to the individual who filed the discrimination claim. Our top-ranking San Francisco real estate lawyer can explain the consequences of violating the Fair Housing Act. Discrimination based on protected classes is illegal under state and federal law, and housing providers can face legal consequences for engaging in discriminatory practices. For especially outrageous discrimination, you may have to pay punitive damages. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will impose fines against property owners who violate the Fair Housing Act in the following amounts:
  • $16,000 for first-time violators
  • $37,500 if the landlord has violated the Fair Housing Act before the current complaint
  • $65,000 if the landlord has violated the Fair Housing Act two or more times before the current complaint.

Why Do I Need a Real Estate Attorney in California?

San Francisco tenants have the right to fair housing. Fair housing laws are in place to protect tenants from discrimination and ensure that everyone has equal access to safe and affordable housing. Our credible San Francisco real estate lawyers at Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C. can help you learn more about your rights and responsibilities under fair housing law. Here are some reasons why you might need a fair housing rights attorney in San Francisco, CA:
  • You have been subjected to discriminatory lending practices: If you have been offered different terms on a mortgage or if you have seen advertisements for housing that indicate a preference for or exclusion of individuals because of your identity, we can help you take legal action to stop the discriminatory practices. 
  • You have been denied housing: If you believe that your rights have been violated under the terms of the Fair Housing Act and you have been denied housing, we can help you determine if you have a case and can help you take legal action if necessary.
  • You have been harassed or intimidated: If you have been harassed or intimidated because of your identity while trying to rent or buy a home, we can help you protect your rights. 
Our legal team understands that housing discrimination not only affects you logistically but also is a great injustice that demands to be corrected. If you suspect that you’ve been treated unfairly in housing, schedule an initial consultation with us today to navigate state laws, ensure legal compliance, and protect your interests.

Call Our Seasoned San Francisco Real Estate Lawyers Now!

If you’re a tenant in San Francisco, it’s important to be aware of the fair housing laws that protect your rights. Discrimination based on your protected status is illegal and can have a significant impact on your ability to secure safe and affordable housing.  At Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C., we understand the challenges that tenants face in navigating the complex world of fair housing laws. Our experienced San Francisco real estate attorneys have a deep understanding of the fair housing laws that apply to tenants and can provide you with the legal guidance you need to navigate this complex area of law.  Whether you’re buying, selling, or leasing a property, our real estate law firm can help you achieve your goals and avoid legal pitfalls. We also have extensive experience in dealing with evictions, landlord-tenant disputes, other real estate litigation, and other legal concerns in San Francisco and the Bay Area.  Contact us now to schedule an initial consultation and learn how we can help protect your rights as a tenant in San Francisco.
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