TENANTS LEGAL CENTER
Discrimination is simply the different treatment of individuals based on their membership in a class or based on something unique to them as individuals. Discrimination is not always illegal. Some discrimination is perfectly legal. The basic rule to determine which is legal verses
Generally, illegal discrimination is when someone is treated differently simply due to their membership in a class based on a protected characteristic. For example, such characteristics includes race, national origin, color, age, gender, religion, family status, disability etc. These are characteristics which are either impossible or at least very difficult to control or change.
Legal discrimination is generally where a person is treated differently due to a behavioral characteristic such as credit record, past behavior as a tenant, wealth and job security etc. These are matters essentially within the control of the individual.
Of course, there are exceptions and unique variations within both groups but the rules remain basically applicable. One could argue that certain disabilities are caused by behavior (i.e. illness from smoking) or that certain protected characteristics are easily changed (i.e. changing religion, family status etc.). This is one reason why discrimination law can be very complex.
Fair Housing Laws cover discrimination in renting. These laws are found in both Federal and State Laws. There are penalties for illegal discrimination in both legal systems (Federal and State) Further, a landlord should not be able to evict a tenant based on an illegal discrimination.
Illegal discrimination is difficult to prove. You must first show some differential treatment for one person as opposed to another based only on the protected characteristic and not some other reason. Some landlords will invent excuses for the differential treatment so as to try and get away with what was really an improper discrimination. For example, an eviction is filed by a new owner who is of a different race than that of an existing tenant. If questioned, the landlord may say he/she examined the rent payment history of the tenant and feels it is not good enough. What is the true motive? Is it based on the rent or the race?
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If you feel you are the victim of illegal discrimination you may contact the following for assistance: U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development (H.U.D.), for California - California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and for San Diego - the Fair Housing Council of San Diego.
California law for San Diego is applied in these pages. Such laws may or may not be applicable in other jurisdictions. The information provided herein is of a general nature and is not intended to be taken as specific legal advice. For legal advice in a particular situation, promptly consult with an appropriate attorney.