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Housing Discrimination Laws

San Francisco Landlord-Tenant Lawyer

Everyone has the right to go through a fair and unbiased screening process when it comes to any housing-related activity such as buying, renting, or getting a mortgage. No one should suffer unequal treatment in housing decisions based on protected characteristics such as national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. As a landlord, if you treat an individual unequally in a housing decision based on one of these characteristics, you are likely engaged in housing discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Landlords must comply with federal, state, and local fair housing laws when choosing tenants. Failure to know and follow these laws may lead to discrimination complaints and civil rights lawsuits. A credible San Francisco landlord-tenant lawyer can help you select your tenants in compliance with the fair housing law. At Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C., we challenge all manner of housing discrimination. We fight for clients who face discrimination in housing-related decisions because of race, religion, disability, gender identity, familial status, and socioeconomic status. Our legal team utilizes innovative legal tools and strategies to achieve the goal of equal housing opportunity for everyone. Call us now and schedule an initial consultation.

What is Housing Discrimination?

Housing discrimination happens when an individual is treated unequally based on a legally protected characteristic such as their race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, source of income, familial status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Members of disadvantaged groups have a hard time finding a high-quality place to live in a high-opportunity neighborhood. Even with all the legal practices that were in place to prevent housing discrimination, this illegal activity continues to be a problem throughout the years. Housing discrimination is prohibited by the Fair Housing Act, which outlaws most types of discriminatory practices. There are several ways a landlord or property owner may discriminate against applicants, tenants, or homeowners. The law forbids discrimination in all aspects of the housing business, including renting, leasing, selling, or mortgage lending. If you have been a victim of housing discrimination, it is in your best interest to consult a reliable San Francisco landlord-tenant lawyer to help you know the laws and fight for your housing rights.

What Does the Fair Housing Act Cover?

There are both state and federal fair housing laws in place to help protect your rights against housing discrimination. The Fair Housing Act and Fair Housing Amendments Act are the federal laws enforced by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These laws address many issues of housing discrimination and they apply to all aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship. It is crucial for landlords, homeowners, and property owners to know and understand the Fair Housing Laws. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits the denial of housing to a person based on the person’s membership in one or more of the classes protected under the Act. It forbids housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. This also applies to perceptions of such characteristics. A knowledgeable landlord-tenant attorney in the San Francisco Bay Area can help you know and understand the provisions of the Fair Housing Act.


Race refers to whether a person is White, Black, African American, or Asian. One of the main goals of the Fair Housing Act in 1968 is to prohibit racial discrimination in sales and rentals of housing. Under this law, all landlords, property managers, real estate agents, brokers, or mortgage lenders are prohibited to treat a potential tenant differently because of his or her actual race or perceived race. In some cases, housing providers in San Francisco City may try to disguise their discrimination by giving false information about the availability of housing based on race. In addition, housing providers are prohibited from making discriminatory statements or publishing discriminatory advertising. Individuals who receive such false information may have no idea that they have been victims of racial discrimination.

National Origin

National origin refers to an individual’s birthplace or ancestry. A person may be classified depending on the country of origin. When you choose tenants in a way that singles out a particular nationality, you are illegally discriminating—even if your reasons are based on business considerations. Discrimination based on national origin is against the law, whether it’s deliberate or indirectly carried out. Implementing different screening rules for persons from certain countries is just one example of an illegal national-origin-based policy. Stating discriminatory comments and behavior are also considered unlawful.

Familial Status

Landlords are prohibited to explicitly or indirectly refuse tenants based on family status. If you refuse to rent to tenants simply because they have kids or you treat tenants differently because they have children, you may be violating federal law. Discrimination based on familial status may occur when landlords or property owners refuse to rent to families with children or pregnant women. A qualified San Francisco landlord-tenant attorney can help you understand the laws that protect the housing rights of families. Familial status discrimination can also take place when landlords set overly restrictive occupancy rules. Some landlords limit the maximum number of occupants in a rental unit. Therefore, this type of housing discrimination prevents families with children from occupying smaller units.


The FHA prohibits discrimination against people who have physical, mental, or intellectual disabilities that substantially limits their major life activities. It includes individuals who are suffering from visual, hearing, or mobility impairments. Furthermore, the FHA law also protects people with chronic mental illness, dementia, AIDS, alcoholism, and past drug addiction. Tenants with disabilities are often denied a reasonable accommodation that would allow them equal access to housing. The law also protects those who are “associated with” someone who has a disability, such as a family member, co-tenant, or caregiver who lives with the tenant.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Most states do address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The federal fair housing laws ban discrimination based on sex that applies when landlords make decisions based on notions of gender conformity – without considering the orientation or identity of the tenant. For instance, if a landlord rejects a prospective tenant because she wears masculine clothes and engages in masculine activities, it might qualify as discrimination based on sex.

Speak to our Experienced San Francisco Landlord-Tenant Lawyer Now!

Everyone who applies for housing has the right to be treated equally. Both landlords and tenants must adhere to the terms of the Fair Housing Act. Landlords must choose their tenants carefully based on other criteria allowed by the law. On the other hand, a San Francisco tenant must know and understand their rights under the FHA to enjoy their benefits to a fair housing opportunity. Unequal housing opportunities are a reality in the Bay Area. Being limited to living in inferior housing can affect a person’s quality of life. If a landlord has discriminated against a tenant, aside from fines and penalties for violating the law, the landlord could be liable to a tenant for monetary damages. If you feel that you have been a victim of housing discrimination, it is highly recommended to seek legal help from our competent San Francisco Bay Area landlord-tenant attorneys at Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C. Our real estate law firm has extensive experience in helping people who have been victims of housing discrimination. We will fight for your rights based on San Francisco housing discrimination laws. We will help you analyze your situation to determine if the actions taken against you are considered discriminatory. Call us now at and schedule an initial consultation.
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