What is Sex Discrimination?

Sex discrimination in housing is prohibited by both state and federal laws. In its simplest form, sex discrimination occurs when a housing provider treats men and women differently. In its more complicated forms, the ban on sex discrimination includes a ban on discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, as well as a prohibition on sexual harassment. Sex discrimination also includes discrimination against victims of domestic violence.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment generally occurs when a housing provider makes repeated, unsolicited sexual comments and/or physical contact with a current or possible resident. It may also include a “quid pro quo” scenario wherein a housing provider seeks sexual favors in exchange for some housing-related service, such as repairs or discounted rent. It is illegal for property staff, an association board member, a real estate agent, or even a lender to engage in such behavior. Housing providers are also required to take action if they learn that a tenant is sexually harassing another tenant. This may include evicting the harassing tenant.

Inappropriate and unwelcome touching should be immediately reported to the police, and then reported to your local Fair Housing agency.

Victims of Domestic Violence

There are three different sets of laws that may protect victims of domestic violence in California. The first are the Fair Housing laws. Sex discrimination has been interpreted to include discrimination against victims of domestic violence, as the majority of such victims are women. The Fair Housing laws generally prohibit a housing provider from refusing to rent to a woman with a history of domestic violence. In many circumstances, the Fair Housing laws would also prohibit applying a “zero tolerance” crime policy against a victim. It is generally illegal to evict a victim of domestic violence because she called the police, or obtained a restraining order, whether the abuser is a tenant or guest.

California’s Civil Code also includes a group of statutes designed to protect victims of domestic violence. These statutes give a victim the right to end her lease early and request that the locks be changed. They also provide a defense to certain types of evictions. A link to the relevant statutes is provided below.

The federal Violence Against Women Act extends special protections to victims of domestic or sexual violence who live in or participate in federal housing programs. This includes properties funded with low-income housing tax credits or HUD grants, as well as the Section 8 voucher program. VAWA includes anti-eviction rules, as well as provisions for emergency re-housing.

What Does Sex Discrimination Look Like?

Sex Discrimination may include any of the following:

  • A housing provider only wanting to speak to a man, not a woman
  • Refusing to rent to an LGBT individual
  • Evicting a tenant because she obtained a restraining order against her husband
  • Refusing to make repairs except for sexual favors
  • Repeated sexual comments by the maintenance staff
  • Not changing the locks for a victim of domestic violence
  • A subsidized property refusing to remove an abusive household member from the lease
  • Failing to evict a tenant who sexually harasses or assaults another tenant

Sex Discrimination Resources