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Housing Discrimination

Under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), it is unlawful to refuse to sell or rent housing because of an individual's race, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin. In 2014, the California Attorney General on behalf of the State of California, joined 14 other states, in an friend-of-the-court brief filed with the United States Supreme Court in Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. (2015) 576 U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 2507, supporting the right of housing discrimination victims to bring disparate impact claims where a practice has a disproportionate adverse impact on a protected class of persons. The brief argued that disparate impact claims serve an indispensable role in combatting more hidden forms of intentional discrimination. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that housing discrimination victims are entitled to bring disparate impact claims under the FHA where policies or practices have a disproportionate adverse impact on protected classes without needing to establish the property owner's or manager's intent to discriminate.

In 2010, in People v. Minh Development and Management, LLC., et al., the Attorney General successfully obtained a stipulated judgment against property owners in this housing discrimination case. The Attorney General's civil lawsuit alleged that the property owners discriminated against prospective tenants on the basis of race, ethnicity and/or national origin in violation of California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). In addition to paying $150,000 in civil penalties and attorneys' fees, the property owners were required to implement various rental practice reforms, including the provision of employee training on California housing laws, all subject to third-party monitoring for compliance.

Between 2006 and 2009, the Attorney General successfully obtained settlements against nine companies that had constructed apartment complexes that failed to comply with state and federal accessibility laws. The settlements in each of these cases required that the companies comply with state and federal design and construction requirements in the construction of any future buildings, would correct the accessibility deficiencies found by the California Attorney General's Office, and pay civil penalties and attorneys' fees and costs.

In Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. 1105 Alta Loma Road Apts. (2007) 154 Cal.App.4th 1273, the Attorney General successfully obtained a published decision on behalf of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). In its decision, the Court of Appeal rejected a landlord's argument that DFEH's housing discrimination claim arising out of a tenant's disability was barred as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation based upon the actions and statements the landlord had made in conjunction with prior eviction proceedings. The Court of Appeal held that the DFEH's complaint arose out of the landlord's alleged actions in failing to accommodate the tenant's disability, rather than the landlord's communications made in connection with removing the residential units from the rental market.

On September 9, 2004, the Office of the Attorney General secured a published decision from the California Court of Appeal in Auburn Woods I Homeowners Assn. v. Fair Employment and Housing Commission. (2004) 121 Cal.App.4th 1578. In this case, a homeowners association refused to grant an accommodation from its "no dogs" rule to a couple who required a companion animal, a dog, to treat their clinical depression. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court that had overturned the Commission's decision, holding that the homeowners association violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act by refusing to grant the request for an accommodation. This was the first case decided under California law to hold that a homeowners association may have to modify its "no dogs" rule to reasonably accommodate a person with a mental disability by allowing that person to keep a companion animal in his unit.

On September 9, 2004, the Office of the Attorney General secured a published decision from the California Court of Appeal in Auburn Woods I Homeowners Assn. v. Fair Employment and Housing Commission. In this case, a homeowners association refused to grant an accommodation from its "no dogs" rule to a couple who required a companion animal, a dog, to treat their clinical depression. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court that had overturned the Commission's decision holding that the homeowners association violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act by refusing to grant the request for an accommodation. This is the first case decided under California law to hold that a homeowners association may have to modify its "no dogs" rule to reasonably accommodate a person with a mental disability by allowing that person to keep a companion animal in his unit.

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