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Fair Housing

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) enforces laws that protect you from illegal discrimination and harassment in housing based on your actual or perceived:

  • Race

  • Color

  • Religion (includes all aspects of religious belief, such as religious dress and grooming practices)

  • Sex (includes pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and related medical conditions)

  • Gender

  • Gender identity

  • Gender expression

  • Sexual orientation

  • Marital status

  • National origin (includes language use restrictions)

  • Ancestry

  • Familial status (households with a child or children under age 18)

  • Source of income

  • Disability (mental and physical, including HIV/AIDS and cancer)

  • Genetic information (includes genetic tests or manifestation of a hereditary disease)

  • Age (limited scope under the Unruh Civil Rights Act)

Common fair housing violations, based on the categories listed above, include the following:

  • Refusal to sell, rent, or lease housing accommodations

  • Denial of a home loan or homeowner’s insurance

  • Representation that a housing accommodation is not available for inspection, sale, or rental when that accommodation is in fact available

  • Provision of inferior terms, conditions, privileges, facilities or services in connection with the housing accommodation

  • Sexual harassment involving unwanted sexual advances or requiring sexual favors for housing rights or privileges

  • Cancellation or termination of a sale or rental agreement

  • Refusal to permit reasonable accommodations, at the disabled tenant’s expense, when necessary to accommodate a disability

  • Refusal to make reasonable accommodations in housing rules, policies, practices, or services where necessary to afford a disabled person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling

  • Discriminatory policies, practices, terms, or conditions that result in unequal access to housing or housing-related services

What Exactly does the DFEH Do?

The DFEH is a neutral fact-finding agency and does not represent complaints or respondents. The DFEH’s role is to determine if the law has been violated. Whenever possible, the DFEH will assist both parties to resolve the complaint. Examples of resolution could include:

  • Making previously denied housing available;

  • Compensation for losses and emotional distress;

  • Training and policy changes to prevent future discrimination;

  • Other actions to eliminate the effects of discrimination.

If the DFEH is unable to resolve the complaint, and there is sufficient evidence to establish a violation of the law, the DFEH may litigate the matter in civil court.

Filing a complaint

If you think you have been discriminated against or harassed by a housing provider, you can file a discrimination complaint with the DFEH. 

The complaint process starts with filling out and filing a form titled “pre-complaint inquiry.”


  • Provide specific facts about the incident;

  • Provide copies of documents that support the charges in your complaint;

  • Keep records and documents about the complaint, such as rent receipts, applications, and other potential proof of discrimination.

Complaints must be filed within one year of the last act of discrimination/harassment/retaliation or, for victims who are under the age of 18, not later than one year after the victim’s eighteenth birthday.

If your complaint is accepted, the DFEH will conduct an impartial investigation.

This sets in motion a series of legally required steps that DFEH must carefully follow. It’s important to know that DFEH doesn’t take sides when a complaint is first filed.

The DFEH investigates the facts and encourages parties to resolve the dispute in appropriate cases.  DFEH considers taking legal action if the evidence supports a finding of discrimination and the dispute is not resolved. 

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