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Housing Discrimination

In August 1999, the Office of the Attorney General obtained a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prohibit a Walnut Creek landlord from refusing to allow two disabled tenants to install air conditioners considered necessary because of their medical conditions. Doctors for the tenants had determined that, for health and safety reasons, the tenants' apartments had to be cooled to temperatures that could not be maintained without the installation of the window air conditioners.

In Thomas v. City of Anchorage, et al. , the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that City of Anchorage and State of Alaska laws that prohibit discrimination against unmarried couples cannot be enforced against landlords who, for religious reasons, refuse to rent to unmarried cohabiting couples. On January 28, 1999, the Office of the Attorney General filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit in support of the State of Alaska's request for rehearing and its suggestion for a hearing en banc. The states of Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington joined in that brief. When a hearing en banc was granted, the Attorney General filed a second amicus brief. Both briefs argue that the landlords' religious beliefs must yield to the relevant fair housing laws. The Ninth Circuit, while not reaching the merits of the case, issued an opinion in which it dismissed the landlords' complaint.

In Konig v. Fair Employment & Housing Commission, the Office of the Attorney General defended the state law that empowers California's fair housing agency to award damages for emotional distress suffered by victims of housing discrimination. The trial court held this statute unconstitutional. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Office of the Attorney General successfully petitioned the State's high court to hear this case. On July 29, 2002, the Court reversed the lower courts and held that the Commission may, without violating the California Constitution, award damages for emotional distress to victims of housing discrimination.

In Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. Superior Court of Stanislaus County, the Attorney General represented the Department of Fair Employment and Housing in an action brought to compel compliance with an investigatory subpoena issued by the Department in a housing discrimination (race and marital status) case. The subject of the investigation, the respondent, objected to the subpoena, which sought tenant and applicant records, on the grounds that disclosure of rental records would violate the rights of third parties. The trial court agreed with the respondent. The Attorney General filed a petition for writ of mandate in the California Court of Appeal to compel the trial court to set aside its order and to order the respondent to comply with the subpoena. In a published opinion, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court and held that the right to privacy did not bar production of the rental records.

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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