Housing Discrimination Attorneys

Fair Housing Attorneys


The attorneys with Michael T. Chulak & Associates represent both plaintiffs (complaintants) and defendants (respondents) in housing discrimination or fair housing claims anywhere in Southern California. We know the law and can assist you.

State and federal laws prohibit discrimination in the rental and sale of housing based upon the following:

  • Race

  • Color

  • Religion

  • Sex (Gender)

  • Sexual Orientation

  • Marital Status

  • National Origin (including language use restrictions)

  • Ancestry

  • Familial Status (households with children under age 18)

  • Source of Income

  • Disability (mental and physical, including HIV and AIDS)

  • Medical Condition (cancer/genetic characteristics)

  • Age

Discrimination is prohibited in all aspects of the housing business, including, but not limited to:

  • Advertisements;

  • Mortgage lending and insurance;

  • Application and selection processes;

  • Terms, conditions, and privileges of occupancy, including freedom from harassment; and

  • Public and private land-use practices, including the existence of restrictive covenants.

Persons with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations by landlords and homeowner associations in rules, policies, practices, and services and are also permitted, at their own expense, to reasonably modify their dwelling to ensure full enjoyment of the premises.

As in employment discrimination law, persons are protected from retaliation for filing complaints.

Remedies available for housing discrimination include:

  • Sale or rental of the housing unit;

  • Elimination of the discriminatory practice;

  • Policy changes;

  • Reasonable accommodations;

  • Out-of-pocket expenses;

  • Actual damages, including damages for emotional distress;

  • Punitive damages; and

  • Attorney fees and costs.

Request for Reasonable Accommodations or Modifications

Housing providers are required to make reasonable accommodations in their rules, policies, and procedures, and to allow reasonable modifications (changes to the physical structure) for individuals with disabilities.

When considering a reasonable accommodation or modification request, a housing provider may take only the following into consideration:

  • Is the individual for whom the request is made a person with a disability?

  • Is the requested accommodation or modification necessary to allow the person with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, including common areas? This is not determined by the housing provider but by the individual; however, confirmation from a qualified third party may be requested.

  • Would the requested accommodation impose an undue financial and administrative burden on the housing provider? For a modification, this may only be considered if the housing provider receives federal financial assistance.

Under no circumstances may a housing provider ask about the nature or severity of the disability. Housing providers may request information about the relationship between the person's disability and the need for the requested accommodation or modification.

Providers may ask questions that clarify what it is about the rule, policy, practice, or procedure that serves as a barrier or whether there are alternatives that would work for the person with a disability. This enables providers to offer an alternative solution if the requested accommodation is an administrative and/or financial hardship or would fundamentally alter the nature of a provider's operations.

Families with Children

Generally, a landlord cannot refuse to rent to an applicant because there are children in the family. Moreover, the requirements for renting and the terms and conditions must be the same for families with children as for any other applicant or tenant. The one exception to this rule involves housing that has been specifically designed for senior citizens (persons 55 and older, or 62 and older). To qualify as "senior housing", a housing accommodation must meet specific legally-defined requirements which may include a minimum number of units, age-based residency limits, and design features.

Examples of Illegal Activity

A landlord cannot:

  • Refuse to rent or sell to a person who has a physical or mental disability;

  • Ask a person with a disability for medical information or details about the disability;

  • Ask whether the person is able to live independently;

  • Ask for more information than would be asked any other prospective tenant;

  • Refuse to rent or sell to a person because of someone associated with him or her;

  • Ask how the person will cook, clean the housing unit, or what kind of medication a disabled person takes;

  • Prevent you from having a guide dog or any other kind of assistance animal that you need due to your disability;

  • Restrict the use of the amenities, such as the use of a pool that is available to other tenants; and

  • Attempt to convince you not to rent, or assign you to a certain area of the building or property, or lie about the availability of the housing.

Whether you are a claimant or respondent, please call Michael Chulak for a free consultation regarding any housing discrimination or fair housing issue.



California Fair Housing Law

California law has expanded the coverage of fair housing protection in the state by creating codes that include additional protected classes. California uses the terms disabled and disability as opposed to the federal terms of handicap and handicapped. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the Unruh Act are the primary fair housing laws of California. One of the most significant differences between the Federal Fair Housing Act and the State of California Fair Housing Laws is that California’s FEHA added the protection of the following classes from discrimination:

Ancestry Source of Income
Marital Status Age
Sexual Orientation Arbitrary (Unruh)


Prohibited Housing Practices

The Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits discrimination and harassment in all aspects of housing including:

Sales and rentals
Terms and conditions
Mortgage loans
Land use and zoning
Housing providers are required to make reasonable accommodation in rules and practices to permit individuals with disabilities to use and enjoy a dwelling and make reasonable modifications to the premises.
Retaliation against any individual who has filed a complaint with the State, participated in a Department investigation or opposed any activity illegal under the Act is prohibited.


Unruh Civil Rights Act

This law provides protection against discrimination by businesses, housing and public accommodations in California based on:

Age Race
Ancestry Religion
Color Sex
Disability Sexual Orientation
National Origin Source of Income


Ralph Civil Rights Act

The Ralph Civil Rights Act, California Civil Code Sec. 51.7, provides protection from hate crimes. It prohibits violence or threats of violence based on:

Age Position in Labor Dispute
Ancestry Race
Color Religion
Disability Sex
National Origin Sexual Orientation
Political Affiliation Source of Income

Definition of Disability

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits discrimination in all aspects of housing (rental, lease, terms and conditions, etc.) for persons with disabilities. Disability is defined as:

A physical or mental impairment that limits the individual in performing one or more major life activity.
A record of having, or being perceived as having, a physical or mental impairment. It does not include current illegal use of, or addiction to, a controlled substance (as defined by Sec. 102 of the Federal Controlled Substance Act, 21 U.S.C. Sec.802).

Accessibility Guidelines

All new housing construction consisting of four or more dwelling units must be designed and constructed in a manner that allows access to, and use by, disabled persons.

The basic requirements must include the following features:

All covered multi-family dwellings shall have at least one building entrance on an accessible route, unless it is impractical to do so because of the terrain or unusual characteristics of the site. The burden of proof, because of terrain or unusual site characteristics , is on the person or persons who designed the facility.
All covered multi-family dwellings with at least one building entrance on an accessible route shall be designed and constructed in a manner that complies with all of the following:
The public and common areas shall be readily accessible to and usable by handicapped individuals.
All the doors shall be designed to allow passage into and within the premises and shall be sufficiently wide to allow passage by handicapped individuals in wheelchairs.
All covered premises shall contain the following adaptable design features:
An accessible route into and through the covered dwelling unit.
Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, and other environmental controls at accessible locations.
Reinforcements in bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars around the toilet, tub, shower stall and shower seat, where such facilities are not provided.
Usable kitchens and bathrooms such that individuals in a wheelchair can maneuver comfortably within that space.

Use of Service Animals

Individuals with disabilities have the right to use the services of a guide, signal or trained dog (or other such designated animal), and have such animals in or around their unit. No charges or security deposits may be imposed for having a guide, signal or trained animal. Tenants, however, are liable for any damage caused by their animals if there is proof of such damage.


Reasonable Accommodation

At the request of an individual with a disability, a housing provider must make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services to provide the individual equal opportunity to use and enjoy the dwelling.

This includes, but is not limited to:

Making an exemption to a “no pet” policy to enable a disabled tenant to have a service animal.
Changing parking rules to enable a disabled tenant to have parking that meets his/her needs.

A housing provider may ask a tenant for medical verification of the need for reasonable accommodation. This is limited to verification that the person is disabled within the meaning of the law and that there is a need for the requested accommodation. However, the housing provider is not entitled to any information about the nature of the disability.


Reasonable Modifications

A housing provider must allow disabled individuals to reasonably modify existing premises if the modifications are necessary for the enjoyment of the amenities provided within the premises.

The tenant is responsible for the cost of the modification. In some circumstances, a landlord may require that the tenant agree to restore the interior of the premises to the original condition. Examples of reasonable modifications include:

Widening doorways
Lowering cabinets
Installing a wheelchair ramp


Familial Discrimination

The Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits discrimination in all aspects of housing (rental, lease, terms and conditions, etc.) because of the presence of children in the household (familial status).

Familial status is defined as having one or more individuals under 18 years of age residing with a parent or another individual having legal custody of that individual (including foster parents) or with a designee of the parent or legal custodian. Familial status also includes pregnant women and individuals in the process of adopting or otherwise securing legal custody of any minor under 18 years of age.


Senior Housing Exemption

Housing that meets the legal definition of senior housing are exempt from the provisions of familial status under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

The three categories of housing that meet this definition are:

Housing provided under any state or federal program that the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) determines is specifically designed and operated to assist elderly persons, as defined in the state or federal program.
Housing that meets the standards for senior housing in Sections 51.2, 51.3 and 51.4 of the Civil Code (Unruh Civil Rights Act).
Mobile home parks that meet the standards for “housing for older persons” as defined in the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 and related regulations

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