Fair Housing Laws in San Diego: Property Management Tips from the Pros

San Diego is committed to support, protect, and promote fair housing. As a landlord, you are required by law to avoid discrimination of any kind when you’re marketing a property, screening tenants, leasing a home, or enforcing the lease. Everything you do needs to be documented and consistent to ensure you don’t accidentally violate a fair housing law.

The San Diego fair housing requirements follow the federal and state laws. There are a few key things that you need to know.

The Fair Housing Act and Protected Classes

The Fair Housing Act is a federal law which establishes seven protected classes when it comes to housing. You cannot refuse to rent your property to someone or increase their rent because of:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Sex
  • Familial Status
  • Disability
  • Religion

This may seem obvious to you, and most landlords don’t intentionally discriminate. But, if you advertise your property as being “perfect for families,” you might be seen as discriminating against a single person. If you say that your property is “close to churches,” that could be discriminatory language if you have prospective tenant who don’t attend church or have a different religion. Be careful with your marketing, and make sure your rental criteria is documented in writing so you can show tenants exactly what you base your decisions on.

 California Fair Housing Laws

California goes even further than the federal fair housing laws when it comes to protecting classes of people who may have a hard time finding rental housing. In addition to the federal protected classes, you cannot discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation, immigration status, primary language, or source of income.

Landlords in San Diego must comply with all federal, state, and local fair housing laws. Tenants know their rights and have a lot of resources. Make sure you’re familiar with the laws and staying up to date on the changes.

Changes in Fair Housing Laws and Interpretations

The legal landscaping is always changing, especially in California, and especially when it comes to fair housing and tenants’ rights. For example, everyone is talking about service and support animals and how they differ from pets. You cannot deny a tenant who needs a service animal, even if you have a no-pet policy at your rental property. Most landlords understand this, but if you try to charge a pet deposit or pet rent on that service animal, you can get into trouble. The law doesn’t see a service or support animal as a pet. It’s seen as an accommodation, and one that’s legally required to be made.

The term disparate impact is also something you should be familiar with when you are screening tenants. Certain policies seem like they’re not discriminatory, but when they unfairly target a specific group of people, they can be considered problematic. So, if your refusal to rent to anyone with a criminal charge – even a minor one - excludes a large percentage of a population, you could have a fair housing violation to deal with.

We’re here to help with any of your fair housing questions. Please contact us at Mercer Properties, and we’ll keep you compliant with fair housing laws in San Diego.