Discrimination and Reasonable Accommodations

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The following webpage and resources have been developed by staff with years of experience in tenants' rights, but they DO NOT substitute for legal advice.


What protections do I have against discrimination?


Landlord may not discriminate against a tenant on the basis of...

  • Race

  • Religion

  • Ethnic background and national origin

  • Immigration Status

    • Landlords are NOT allowed to…

      • terminate or evict a tenant based on immigration status

      • ask for Social Security Number or immigration status proof in order to apply to move in

      • disclose a tenant's immigration status to a third party unless they are under legal obligation to do so

    • Landlords ARE allowed to…

      • inquire about a tenant's immigration status ONLY in participation with specific government programs. 

      • request tenant to complete an IRS 1-9 form.

    • If you are a tenant and feel your landlord is discriminating on the basis of immigration status, fill out our Threats based on Immigration Status or Citizenship Sample Letter and provide it to your landlord.

  • Sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity

  • Marital status

  • Source of income or being on public assistance 

  • Physical or mental disability

    • This includes hearing, visual, and chronic impairments, as well as chronic alcoholism or mental illness, AIDS, or mental handicaps. Under these discimination protections, landlords must provide reasonable accomidations

  • Family Status

  • Age

  • Association with these groups

    • (this includes if landlords "percieve" a tenant as being within these groups, or "associating" with persons in these groups)


Common behaviors that may be considered as discrimination

  • Inconsistent questions or evaluation of tenant rent applications
  • Refusing to rent on the basis of above listed characteristics of a tenant
  • Indication of preference or unequal treatment of tenants
  • Harassment 
  • Retaliation
  • Access barriers 
  • Failure to provide reasonable accommodate of a disability
  • Deny renting to a tenant on precieved and sterotyped threats 


Landlords can ONLY exclude renting to a tenant on the basis of… 

  • Poor credit history
  • Credit references that don't check out
  • History of tenant activity like not paying rent, or illegal use of the property 
  • Families that exceed persons-to-space ratio


Where do these protections come from?

  • The Federal Fair Housing Act 1968, Department Fair Employment and Housing Act Government Code 1290, and the Unruh Act (Civil Code 51 and 54)


What actions can I take as a tenant to put a stop to discrimination against me or my neighbors?

  • Send a demand letter to your landlord to stop disciminatory behavior or harassment. Tenants Together has created a sample letter in order to make these requests to your landlord.
  • File an administrative complaint:
    • On the state level: to the Califonria Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)
      • 800-884-1684 or www.dfeh.ca.gov
        • Tenants can file a complaint form within 1 year after the act of discimination
    • On the federal level: to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) related to discimination on the basis or race, religion, national origin, sex, family status, or disability
      • Go to www.hud.gov, go to topic areas, and search for housing discimination 
      • 800-347-3739
        • Tenants can file a complaint form within 1 year after the act of discrimination
  • Sue the disciminating landlord


Reasonable Accommodations

What rights do I have to request reasonable accommodations?

  • Any person with a disability may file a request with their landlord for reasonable accommodation to use and enjoy their rental unit.

    • A disability is considered "any physical or mental condition that substantially limits [a person] major life activities". 

    • The disability also doesn't have to be permanent.

  • It is ALWAYS okay to ask for accommodations

    • It is ILLEGAL for landlords to punish or evict a tenant for requesting reasonable accommodations or modifications. The disability also doesn't have to be permanent. The only basis in which landlords can flat-out deny a request is if it seriously impacts the landlord's ability to do business.

    • If you feel that you have been retaliated against for requesting reasonable accommodations, fill out our Retaliation Sample Letter with your situation and provide it to your landlord as soon as possible.

  • The only basis which landlords can flat-out deny a request is if it seriously impacts the landlord's ability to do business.

  • Tenants must pay for physical modifications for their requested accommodation, unless in specific instances when the landlord recieves some type of federal financial assistance.

  • Landlords may also require that the unit be restored to its original condition at the end of tenancy.


Process for Requesting Reasonable Accommodation 

  1. Write a written request to the landlord.
  • Within this request, a tenant must provide documentation of the disability and disability-related needs (such as a letter from a doctor or therapist).
  • However, a landlord cannot ask a tenant to prove their disability or insist on unreasonable amounts of proof.
  • Tenants Together has created a sample letter that can be used to make these requests to a landlord. Tenants should send letters to landlord via certified mail.
  1. Landlord must respond quickly to engage in an "interactive process". If they do not respond, the tenant may file a complaint with California Department Fair Employment & Housing
  2. The landlord and tenant then write and sign a statement formalizing the accommodation.

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