Real Estate Licensees and Housing Discrimination

Q: Which state enforcement agency enforces Fair Housing laws in California?

A: The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) enforces state fair housing laws which make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a protected characteristic such as:

Race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, veteran or military status, or genetic information of a person.

The law applies to landlords (property owners), companies that screen tenants, companies (real estate brokerages) that provide property management services, real estate agents (real estate brokers and real estate salespersons), home sellers, mortgage lenders, etc.

Housing discrimination related to the renting, leasing or sale of residential property, or obtaining a mortgage or property insurance as well as advertising of these foregoing services is illegal under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Examples of unlawful housing discrimination:

Refusing to sell or rent – or – to negotiate the sale or rent of apartments or homes to protected individuals is unlawful.

NOTE: Real Estate licensees can be the subject of a complaint to the DFEH

If you are a real estate licensee and you are served with a complaint from the DFEH, what steps must be taken?

You must respond to the complaint within the time indicated by the DFEH.  You are entitled to be represented by a lawyer of your choice throughout the process – however, the DFEH does not provide attorney services to you if you are the subject of an investigation.

What to expect:

You will be interviewed by DFEH staff and you may also be asked to provide documentation as part of the inquiry.

The DFEH offers dispute resolution services when deemed appropriate.

If the complaint is not resolved between the parties, the DFEH will assess whether there is “reasonable cause” the parties may be required to go to mediation.  If the matter is not resolved at that point the DFEH will determine whether to initiate a lawsuit against the target of the complaint.