In a significant development for housing providers in California, the state legislature passed and the Governor signed a bill (now a law) designed to prohibit property management from discriminating against residents and potential residents who use housing vouchers to pay their rent. The new law expands the definition of “source of income” under California law.
To briefly review, the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) has seven protected classes, which include: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status. In addition to those covered under the FHA, California’s anti-discrimination laws include protections for the following additional protected classes: sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, marital status, medical condition, ancestry, source of income, age (over 40), genetic information as well as a catch-all class known as protection from discrimination for any arbitrary reason.
This new law expands the definition of “source of income” as a protected class under California law. It provides that property management must now accept a voucher from a local housing authority or other government agency (with the resident paying any balance if the rent is more than the voucher). Now, management is still permitted to use the same credit and criminal background checks as we have done in the past and this is not an effort to force management to lower our rents. Your humble Fair Housing Defense blog editor will continue to review the new law, but it appears the Governor signed the bill to go along with a handful of other resident protection measures, including one to cap annual rent increases at 5 percent (plus inflation) and to prevent management from evicting residents without “just cause.”
At this point, a best practice would be to work with a lawyer like me to ensure that all leasing office team members are trained and have a script to respond to a prospect (or a fair housing tester) calling, emailing, or visiting your California properties with questions about paying their rent with vouchers.
Just A Thought.