1. Question: How many protected classes are there in California?
Answer: In addition to the seven federal protected classes (race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status and disability) California law recognizes the following protected classes, some of which are unique to California. They are: marital status, age, ancestry, sexual orientation, source of income, medical condition, gender, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, citizenship, immigration status, military/veterans’ status, and primary language spoken. California also prohibits discrimination based on the perception that someone is from a protected class or is associated with someone from a protected class. Finally, it prohibits discrimination on any arbitrary basis.
2. Question: What is a request for a reasonable accommodation?
Answer: A reasonable accommodation is an exception, change, or adjustment in rules, policies, practices, or services when such accommodation is necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit and public and common areas, or an equal opportunity to obtain, use, or enjoy a housing opportunity.
3. Question: What are some examples of a reasonable accommodation?
Answer: Common examples are allowing a resident to have an assistance animal (such as a service animal or a support animal), reserving a special parking space for a resident, allowing a resident who needs to move due to a disability to terminate a lease without further obligation for rent, or modifying a rent due date to coincide with the receipt of disability payments.
4. Question: What is a request for a reasonable modification?
Answer: A reasonable modification is a change, alteration, or addition to the physical premises of an existing housing accommodation, when such a modification may be necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit and public and common use areas, or an equal opportunity to obtain, use, or enjoy a housing opportunity.
5. Question: Who pays for a reasonable modification?
Answer: Modifications are generally made at the resident’s expense, although there are exceptions. In some instances, owners may also be subject to contractual obligations, or federal or state laws or regulations that require the owner to install and pay for the reasonable modifications, such as when the owner is a government entity, or the recipient of federal or state funding for affordable housing, or part of a government entity’s program or activities to provide housing. In those instances, requests for reasonable modifications shall be handled as requests for a reasonable accommodation (meaning that the request may need to be completed by the landlord at the landlord’s expense). Also, if a newer property (built for first occupancy 3/13/91 or later) wasn’t built in compliance with accessibility laws in place at the time of construction, the landlord must pay to make it accessible.
6. Question: What is an assistance animal?
Answer: According to California’s fair housing regulations (effective January 1, 2020), an assistance animal is “not a pet.” It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, or provides emotional, cognitive, or similar support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of an individual’s disability. Such animals include “service animals” (defined as “animals trained to perform specific tasks to assist individuals with disabilities, including individuals with mental health disabilities”) and “support animals” (defined as “animals that provide emotional, cognitive, or other similar support to an individual with a disability. A support animal does not need to be trained or certified”).
7. Question: Can I require a tenant pay a deposit for their assistance animal? Answer: No. It is unlawful to condition the granting of a reasonable accommodation, such as allowing a resident to have an assistance animal, on that person paying a fee or deposit. However, the resident can still be held liable for any damage to the unit above ordinary wear and tear that is caused by the animal and those damages can be taken out of the regular security deposit that the resident paid for the unit.
8. Question: A tenant wants to move in with a companion dog. Our property only allows cats as pets. Can I tell the tenant to get a companion cat instead?
Answer: No. You cannot apply pet restrictions to assistance animals. An assistance animal is not a pet. You must allow the tenant to get the type of assistance animal that best meets his/her disability-related needs.
9. Question: I just received a Notice of Filing of Discrimination Complaint from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. What do I do?
Answer: You only have 20 days to respond to a fair housing complaint from either HUD or the DFEH. If you do not respond to the complaint in that time frame the agency will proceed with the case without your input which could result in a finding of discrimination against you. You should contact our office right away and also notify your insurance company of the complaint.
10. Question: Someone told me that a guest of a resident can file a fair housing complaint, is that true?
Answer: Yes. Guests have standing to bring a fair housing complaint or lawsuit if the guest receives discriminatory treatment while visiting a resident at your property. A common example would be refusing to allow a guest to bring his assistance animal with him when he visits your resident at the property.
11. Question: An applicant came into my office and is clearly pregnant. Do I count the baby to determine whether her household meets our occupancy standards? Answer: No. You should not count the baby until it is born. You should also have a reasonable policy about what happens when the addition of a minor to the household during the tenancy puts the household over occupancy.
12. Question: What is the difference between ADA and fair housing laws? Does the ADA apply to my property?
Answer: The ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) applies only to places of public accommodation. Fair housing laws apply to private residential rental housing (and housing sales). Only the areas of your property that are open for the public to come and do business with you are covered by the ADA, such as your rental office and future resident parking. The other areas of your property, such as the rental units, common areas and amenities are covered by fair housing laws. There are some substantial differences between the ADA and fair housing laws, so if you are unsure about which laws apply and what your responsibilities are, you should contact our office.
This article is for general information purposes only. This article should not be relied upon as a complete report of all new changes of local, state, and federal laws affecting property owners and managers. Laws may have changed since this article was published. Before acting, be sure to receive legal advice.
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