Housing Discrimination During the Pandemic Is Up
As the country continues to deal with Covid-19, there is not one aspect of our lives that remains untouched by the impact of the virus. Housing is no exception. In fact, certain types of housing discrimination and harassment have increased during the pandemic, and some tenants may be especially vulnerable during this time.
Who is Protected from Housing Discrimination?
Under California law (Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Unruh Act) and the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), tenants are protected from being discriminated by landlords when the tenants fall into categories or “protected classes.” California prohibits discrimination against a tenant based on the following characteristics:
- Race, color
- Disability, (mental or physical)
- Ancestry, national origin
- Sexual orientation
- Sex, gender
- Marital status
- Gender identity, gender expression
- Familial status
- Source of income
- Genetic information
- Primary language
- Immigration status
Discrimination Based on Race
Because some people inaccurately associate Asian countries (especially China), with a role in generating and spreading the coronavirus, it has led to increased reports of discrimination and hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans. Much of the mistreatment has involved refusal of services. This attitude can easily affect housing situations and can lead to discrimination. For instance, it is obviously unlawful for a landlord to refuse to make a necessary repair due to their fear of entering a tenant’s apartment because the renter is Chinese, and the landlord is afraid of contracting the coronavirus. Or more commonly, a refusal to rent based on race.
Discrimination Based on Disability
The pandemic has caused a lot of worry and tension. Consequently, there are more accommodation requests from tenants with disabilities, wanting to have a support animal to help them cope with anxiety. Typically, landlords are required to make an exception to a no pets policy for support animals. A landlord who refuses such a request is discriminating against the renter based on their disability, unless the accommodation is unreasonable. It is considered unreasonable if the accommodation creates an undue financial or administrative burden on the landlord or fundamentally alters the nature of the housing. For example, if the animal is a dog who is untamed and poses a threat to other people.
Discrimination Based on Age
San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and other cities in the Bay Area have their own laws governing discrimination that have more extensive protections than the federal Fair Housing Act and the California laws. These laws encompass more categories of characteristics, including age.
The Covid-19 crisis has been very impactful for senior citizens. Older people are at a higher risk for developing complications. Seniors are also more vulnerable to from the virus, as compared to their younger counterparts. The elderly has more association with the Covid-19 which can lead to the perception that they have it or have been exposed. A landlord may feel more comfortable asking seniors more invasive questions, such as inquiring about whether they have Covid-19 and if they have been tested.
Assert Your Rights with Help from an Experienced Housing Discrimination Attorney
Discrimination is not only hurtful and humiliating, but it can also be difficult to prove. If you believe you’re experiencing housing discrimination, get in touch with a tenants’ rights lawyer today. At Wolford Wayne, we will hold your landlord responsible for their wrongdoing. Contact us today so we can assist you with the next steps.