In a recent newsletter from the Housing Rights Center, it was noted that steps are being taken to curtail the rising discrimination in housing. Below are some of their plans and things of which you should be aware.
More “Testers” to Come
In their Spring newsletter, there is an advertisement seeking “testers” for Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. These volunteer positions are available to people who pretend to be renters to help with investigating property owners who are discriminating and violating renters’ rights in housing. These testers playing the role will do so by phone, internet or email and they are hired strictly to report information on their experiences that determine a violation. Don’t let that violation be yours!
Race and Gender-Identity Discrimination
It was also noted that California was the site of nearly half of all of the COVID-related anti-Asian hate incidents in 2020 and is also home to 50% of the nation’s unhoused transgender individuals.
As a result of the above, a $125,000 grant was recently awarded to HUD’s Fair Housing Initiative Program (FHIP) to combat what they claim to be increased housing discrimination against Asian communities, transgenders and unhoused individuals.
Source of Income Laws
“Source of income” (SOI) laws protect the rights of tenants to use income from public assistance, including Section 8, to pay rent. Under California Civil Code §12920, housing providers may not reject rental applicants because they would pay rent using public assistance or other “nontraditional” sources of income.
Property owners have the right to screen applicants for past conduct and ability to pay rent, as long as the screening is applied equally to all applicants. Landlords must include income from public assistance and other sources in determining whether an applicant meets their income requirements and may not charge a higher rent to tenants who receive assistance, OR raise the rent in order to make their property ineligible for a voucher program.
Examples of Lawful Income
- Section 8 and other housing subsidies
- Social Security
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Disability Income (SSDI)
- Child/Spousal Support
- Unemployment Benefits
- “Under the Table”
- Employment Regular Paychecks
Examples of Illegal Discrimination
- An ad for housing says “No Section 8”
- A housing application says all tenants must have a full-time job
- Your current landlord says you will have to move out once you enroll in a voucher program
- You are charged a higher security deposit because part of your income is from Social Security
Summary: It’s Against the Law!
It is illegal in the State of California to refuse a Section 8 applicant simply because they are receiving monies from the subsidy program or basing a decision on their “source of income”. It is equally illegal to discriminate based on race, gender-identity or sexual orientation.
Be careful what you say or write; train your resident managers well and avoid all illegal actions that will land you in their sights. Violations will cost you valuable time and a whole lot of money!
Patricia A. Harris is Senior Editor of AOA’s News and Buyers Guide.