A special thanks to Amy Nelson and Fair Housing of the Dakotas.

Click on any of the subjects below to go to that section:
What is Fair Housing?
Fair Housing Law
Protected Classes
Possible Remedies
Publications/Resources Available Online
General Information on Fair Housing
Advertising and Fair Housing
Disability & Fair Housing
Families with Children & Fair Housing (Familial Status)
Gender Discrimination
Sexual Harassment & Fair Housing
National Origin & Fair Housing
Immigration Status
Limited Ability to Speak or Read English

What is Fair Housing?
Fair Housing is a right - not just a privilege. Fair Housing is the law - not just an idea. Fair Housing is no longer only an issue of color or race; it also includes issues such as the presence of children in a household, disability, gender, sexual orientation

Fair Housing Law
There are a number of laws concerning discrimination in housing. While the Fair Housing Act is the law most frequently cited, the federal government has a number of laws and executive orders addressing the issue. The more prominent of these are summarized at the following link: Federal Fair Housing Law Summary

Generally speaking there are four basic components to any complaint of illegal housing discrimination:
   1) A protected class that is covered by the law, and
   2) A discriminatory act or practice that is covered by the law, and
   3) The most recent discriminatory act occurred within one year that the formal complaint
         was initiated, and
   4) The complaint involves a kind of housing covered by the law(s)

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Protected Classes 
      ➢   Race
      ➢   Color
      ➢   National Origin
Sex (Gender)
      ➢   Familial Status

In addition to the above list of “protected classes” the State of California has added:
      State of California
      ➢   Age
      ➢   Ancestry
      ➢   Gender Identity
      ➢   Marital Status
      ➢   Sexual Orientation
      ➢   Medical Condition
      ➢   Arbitrary Characteristics
      ➢    Source of Income

The California Supreme Court has held that protections under the Unruh Act are not necessarily restricted to these characteristics. The Act meant to cover all arbitrary and intentional discrimination on the bases of personal characteristics similar to those listed above. Under these acts individuals may obtain civil remedies. For more information please visit: http://www.dfeh.ca.gov/DFEH/Publications/statLaws.aspx

Links to broader discussions of specific illegal housing discrimination practices, issues, and publications are contained in this website: Link to Publications Page

A discussion of possible remedies for victims of discrimination and links to federal and state enforcement agencies to make a complaint can be found through the following link: Link to Remedies and Enforcement Page

If you are a resident of Napa County you can contact Fair Housing Napa Valley for additional assistance with individual questions or assistance. In addition, the agency also provides educational programs and assistance to individuals who wish to file a fair housing enforcement complaint.

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Possible Remedies              
Victims of discrimination may be compensated in several ways. They may be able to get the housing they wanted or similar housing may be made available. In some cases, a cash payment can be made to reimburse for expenses caused by having to find other housing and for damages such as pain and distress.

If you win a federal civil court lawsuit, the law may also allow you to receive punitive damages.
Those found guilty of discrimination may be assigned penalties and given direction on how to change their way of doing business.

There are three formal ways to make a complaint: file for administrative enforcement with the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development, the State of California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, or by filing a lawsuit in court. Persons who believe they have been victims of discrimination can do any of these in any order Housing discrimination complaints based on federal law through the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development can be filed in any one of the following ways:
      • Completing an online form at http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/online-complaint.cfm
      • By a phone call to 1-800-669-9777
      • Filling out a printed form which can be downloaded from

      • Writing a letter outlining your complaint which contains
             Your name and address
             The name and address of the person your complaint is about
             The address of the house or apartment of the complaint
             The date when this incident occurred
             A short description of what happened
      For residents of California, Arizona, Hawaii, and Nevada, the complaints
      can be sent to:

             San Francisco Regional Office of FHEO
             U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
             600 Harrison Street, 3rd Floor
             San Francisco, California 94107-1387
             (415) 489-6524
             TTY (415) 436-6594

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Information regarding filing a housing discrimination complaint under State of California laws can be accessed through the Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s website at:

If you believe you have been unlawfully discriminated against in the sale, rental, or financing of housing, you should contact the Department’s Housing Unit at:
        1-800-233-3212 (within California),
        1-520-622-2945 (outside California), or
         TTY 1-800-700-2320.

All housing interviews are usually conducted by telephone and the complaint process is summarized at:

   •   Housing Pre-Complaint Questionnaire

   •   Cuestionario de Pre-Queja - Vivienda

   •   Fair Housing Fact Sheet

   •   Complaint Process

   •   Housing Complaint Flow Chart

PUBLICATIONS About Fair Housing Issues That Are Available On-Line 

General Information on Fair Housing  
   •   Fair Housing Statute and CFR References at:

   •   Fair Housing: It's Your Right: HUD booklet which explains the basics of the Federal
        Fair Housing Act.
          English: http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/FHLaws/FairHousingJan2002.pdf
          Spanish: http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/FHLaws/yourrights_sp.pdf

   •   Federal Fair Housing & Civil Rights Laws: http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/FHLaws/

   •   HUD Fair Housing News (newsletter): For the latest information on HUD's
        fair housing program and fair housing cases, go to:

   •   HUD Guidance to Federal Assistance Recipients Regarding Title VI Prohibition
       Against National Origin Discrimination Affecting Limited English Proficient


   •   HUD Memo on Community Development Block Grants & Fair Housing:

   •   HUD Memos on First Amendment Issues and Fair Housing:
        2005 1st Amendment Memo.pdf and

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Advertising & Fair Housing 
With a few exceptions, advertisements for sale or rental housing may not express preferences or limitations even if the property is exempt from housing discrimination laws. In general, advertisements which use explicit words which refer or relate to protected classes in connection with describing the dwelling, landlord, tenants, or neighborhood will be found to violate the law. Contact a local Fair Housing Agency, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing or HUD with any questions.

The three most common exemptions involve qualified 1) senior housing, 2) shared housing, and 3) affirmative marketing. Advertisements for the sale or rental of dwellings qualifying as housing for older persons (55 or 62 depending on the designation) may indicate a limitation based on age only. Advertisements for educational dormitories and a single unit with shared living areas advertising for a roommate may indicate a preference based on sex (gender) only.

An affirmative marketing campaign can make reference to protected classes to remedy prior marketing discrimination or to attract persons that are not otherwise expected to apply. Examples of this are advertising units that are accessible to persons with a particular disability or an effort to integrate a segregated neighborhood.
   •     Advertising - HUD Memo on Advertising (commonly called the
         Achtenberg Memo):

          PDF-Sect 804 Achtenberg.pdf
   •     HUD Advertising Appendix Part 109:
          (Please note that this Appendix was withdrawn by HUD but is still used by HUD for
          guidance and for recommendations of policy.)

   •     HUD Logo: If you're interested in downloading a HUD logo for advertisements,
          go to:

   •     HUD Memo on Internet Advertising: http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/library/

   •     View Fair Housing Statute and CFR References (including advertising) at:
   •     Suggested Readings by Robert G. Schwemm
           Why Do Landlords Still Discriminate
(and What Can Be Done About It)?
           Barriers to Accessible Housing: Enforcement Issues in Design
           and Construction Cases
           Under the Fair Housing Act
           Seniors and the Fair Housing Act
           Cox, Halprin, and Discriminatory Municipal Services under the Fair Housing Act
           Strader v. Graham: Kentucky's Contribution to National Slavery Litigation the the
           Dred Scott Decision
                To review these article click:

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Disability & Fair Housing 
Federal fair housing laws define disability as a condition that “substantially” limits a major life activity. California’s definition is much less rigorous since the word “substantially” has been dropped. Under the State of California statute disability is defined as a condition the limits a major life activity.
   •    Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST: HUD funded project which provides training and
         resources on the Fair Housing Act Accessibility Requirements.
   •    Fair Housing and Disability Video DFEH: The video is produced by the State
         of California and can be viewed at:
   •    Fair Housing Act Design Manual: Great HUD resource regarding accessibility
         requirements for multi-family properties built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991:
         comprehensive disability housing discrimination study conducted.
   •    Multiple Chemical Sensitivities: HUD Memo on when a Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
         Disorder meets the definition of disability and would be protected under Fair Housing
         Laws. HUD 1992 Memo.
   •    Reasonable Accommodations/Modifications
         Both the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA)and California Fair Housing statutes require
         housing providers make reasonable changes to the property (modification) or change
         in rules, policies, practices or services (accommodations). The goal is to enable a
         person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling
         unit and the common areas in a housing complex.

         When asking for a reasonable accommodation/modification there should be a link or
         “nexus” between the disability and the request. The person requesting the
         accommodation should be prepared to independently demonstrate that he or she
         has a disability, but need not disclose a diagnosis or provide a full medical history.
           MS Word form that can be used to request a Reasonable Accommodation
           from a Landlord
           Adobe Reader form that can be used to request Reasonable Accommodation
           from a Landlord.

   •    Fairer Housing for People with Disabilities: Securing an In-Place Tenant’s Right
         to Reasonable Accommodation
, by Liam Garland.
         Clearinghouse REVIEW Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, January–February
         2007. Liam Garland.This article has a good overview of common reasonable
         accommodation requests.

   •    Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law Fact Sheets: Bazelon has a number of
         fact sheets available on issues involving reasonable accommodations.
   •    HUD-DOJ Joint Statement on Reasonable Accommodations Under the Fair
         Housing Act:
   •    HUD-DOJ Joint Statement on Reasonable Modifications Under the Fair
         Housing Act:

   •    HUD Guidance Memo on Insurance Coverage and Reasonable

   •    HUD Guidance Memo on Requests for Exception Payment Standards for
         Person with Disabilities as a Reasonable Accommodation:
Memo outlines
         when a person with a disability can make a request for a reasonable
         accommodation for an increased payment amount through the housing
         assistance program. (An example may include when it relates to the need for
         accessible housing and being unable to find within the fair market range.)
         For more information about such requests, see:
   •    Service Animals: Several materials are available:
           Companion Animals: Service Animals. Janush v. Charities Housing
           Development Corp., 169 F.Supp.2d 1133, United States District Court, N.D.
           California, 2000. http://www.animallaw.com/serviceanimals.htm
           Companion Animals and Service Animals: California Dept of Fair Employment
           and Housing, August 27, 2004, Auburn Woods
           Homeowners Association v. Abdelfatah Elebiari. The court’s decision:
           Bazelon Center, Right to Emotional Support Animals in "No Pet" Housing:
           HUD Rules on Pets in Elderly Housing: (includes discussion of service animals
           as well). Published October 27, 2008 

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Families with Children & Fair Housing (Familial Status) 
   •     Families with Children & Fair Housing:
   •     HUD Memo on Occupancy Standards (commonly called the Keating Memo):

   •     HUD Guidance Memo on Conversion of Property to Housing for Older Persons:

   •     HUD Question & Answer Memo on Housing for Older Persons:
   •     HUD Occupancy Standard Manual for Subsidized Multifamily Housing Projects:
   •     Lead Based Paint Issues
         EPA Booklet: Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home
         HUD Memo on Fair Housing & Lead Based Paint Disclosure:

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Gender Discrimination 
   Gender refers to whether a person is male or female. California statutes
   further protect, and include transsexuals and transgender persons who by their identity,
   appearance, and/or behavior appear to be of a different sex stereotypically associated
   with the person's assigned sex at birth.

TransGender Law Centers publication “AB 196: What it Means to You
   An information and resource fact sheet for transgender employees and tenants.

Sexual Orientation
   Sexual orientation generally refers to a person who identifies as heterosexual,
   gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

State of California Department of Justice
   To review the State of California booklet that discusses sexual orientation and unlawful
   discrimination, please visit:

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Sexual Harassment & Fair Housing 
   Domestic Violence and Fair Housing
   •    ACLU Publication on "Fair Housing for Battered Women:
          Preventing Homelessness Through Civil Rights Laws":

   •    ACLU Publication on "Housing Discrimination and Domestic Violence":
   •    ACLU Publication on "The Rights of Domestic Violence Survivors in
         Public and Subsidized Housing":

   •    Domestic Violence & Fair Housing as published by the National Law Center:
            English:  http://www.nlchp.org/program_legislation.cfm?prog=3
            Spanish: http://www.legalmomentum.org/our-work/domestic-violence/

   •     Domestic Violence and Assault: General Definition and State Law:

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Sexual Harassment
   •    HUD Guidance on Sexual Harassment:
   •    DFEH Fair Housing Fact Sheet: California Fair Housing Laws Protect You
         From Sexual Harassment:
   •    Gender Identification Discrimination:

   •     ACLU Publication on "Domestic Violence and Homelessness":
   •     ACLU Publication on "Fair Housing for Battered Women:
         Preventing Homelessness Through Civil Rights Laws":

   •     HUD Homeless Resources:

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National Origin & Fair Housing 

It is illegal for a landlord to deny housing or treat someone differently in a housing transaction because:
    1) A person's name, appearance, accent, or participation in customs are associated
         with a nationality, or because of
    2) A persons association with people of a particular national origin.

   •   US Dept of Justice (Pamphlet), Federal Protections Against
        National Origin Discrimination
   •   US Dept of Justice (Pamphlet), Protecciones Federales
        Contra la Discriminación por Origen Nacional
   •   Post 9/11 Forms of Discrimination and Information by US Dept of Justice:
        http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/legalinfo/nordwg_brochure.html or

Immigration Status: While not part of California State Fair Housing Law, it is illegal for landlords to require verification of immigration status for tenants or prospective tenants. Landlords may still require documentation that will determine or verify the financial qualifications of an applicant, or to verify the identity of a prospective tenant. However, they may not only specify documentation that relate to immigration status.

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Limited Ability to Speak or Read English 
   •   Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Guidance as issued by HUD:
   •   HUD Limited English Profiency (LEP) Frequently Asked Questions:
   •   HUD Translated Materials:


Please note that for many of the files available for download on this site, you will need Adobe Reader. If you do not have Adobe Reader with search and accessibility, click here to download it:


Any file with a .doc extension is a Microsoft Word File.

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Fair Housing Napa Valley