- Disability (Mental and Physical) 1,259
- Race and Color 842
- Retaliation 800
- Sex (including Gender, Gender Identity, Gender Expression, 588
Pregnancy, Harassment, and Orientation)
- Familial Status/Marital Status 532
- Source of Income 326
- Ancestry and National Origin 266
- Age–40orover 185
- Association with a Member of a Protected Class 157
- Religion 95
- Genetic Information or Characteristics 46
For the future, a “hot” issue in our view appears to be the DFEH’s interest in community occupancy limits, especially as they affect families with children under 18 (familial status).
Expected is an increase in the number of complaints based on sex or sexual harassment. From the above number of complaints received by the Department, the DFEH filed 1,365 housing-related discrimination complaints in 2015.
- Los Angeles 374
- San Diego 115
- Sacramento 92
- Santa Clara 73
- Orange 72
The mission of the DFEH is to “protect the people of California from unlawful discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.” The DFEH is responsible for enforcing state fair housing and anti-discrimination laws. It receives funding from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”). When a HUD-subsidized property or federal funds are involved at a property with a housing discrimination complaint, HUD will usually handle the investigation and enforcement. Most other housing discrimination complaints to HUD, however, are referred by HUD to the DFEH for investigation.
When a complaint is filed, the DFEH issues a Notice of Filing of Discrimination Complaint to the allegedly offending party (the “respondent” or “respondents”) by certified mail with a request for information – this is usually a very comprehensive document and policy request as well as a detailed factual inquiry. The respondents in housing discrimination cases are usually the property management company, property owners, and individual members of the on-site management/maintenance team. A response to the complaint must be filed within 20 days after the date of the complaint letter.
Because of this tight timeframe to respond, it is very important that the complaint be sent to a competent fair housing attorney to assess and recommend a plan of action. Complainants and respondents may request that the matter be submitted to DFEH mediation, where the goal is a confidential settlement before submitting a response and proceeding with an investigation. Investigation files typically stay open for 10-12 months.
After a response is submitted, the DFEH will usually request more information through additional document requests and witness interviews with staff members and their supervisors. Once the DFEH has the information it has requested, the DFEH investigator will evaluate the evidence and issue a factual summary for review by DFEH supervisors and the DFEH legal staff. The DFEH then decides whether probable cause exists to find a fair housing violation. If probable cause is found, DFEH mandatory mediation follows. If the case does not resolve, the DFEH will file a civil lawsuit against the respondent(s) in Superior Court. When a lawsuit is filed, the State of California will seek legal fees in addition to all other remedies and damages available.
The DFEH investigation is intended to be impartial, but keep in mind the DFEH’s mission and their potential role as counsel in a lawsuit against a landlord or property manager. Therefore, it is important for a respondent to have a knowledgeable fair housing attorney represent the respondent’s interests throughout this entire process.