Legal Memorandum: Familial Status Discrimination under FHA

Issue: Whether Plaintiffs have a valid claim that they suffered familial status discrimination by Defendants in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (CFEHA), the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and the California unfair competition and unfair business practices law, and that Defendants, acted negligently.

Area of Law: Constitutional Law, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Familial status discrimination; Fair Housing Act (FHA); Unfair competition or unlawful business practices
Jurisdiction: California, Federal
Cited Cases: 104 F.3d 300; 180 Cal. Rptr. 496; 984 F.2d 924; 53 F.3d 821; 110 Cal. Rptr. 2d 528; 64 Cal. Rptr. 2d 301
Cited Statutes: Cal. Gov. Code § 12955; Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 51; Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200
Date: 05/01/2006

Under the FHA, a plaintiff proves discrimination by showing either that the defendant had a “direct discriminatory intent . . . through direct or circumstantial evidence, Kormoczy v. Dep’t of Hous. & Urban Dev., 53 F.3d 821, 823-24 (7th Cir. 1995), or according to the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting test, see Ring v. First Interstate Mortgage, Inc., 984 F.2d 924, 926 (8th Cir. 1993).  Under the McDonnell Douglas test, the plaintiff claiming violation of the FHA must show, in order to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, that (1) he or she is a member of a protected class, (2) he or she applied to rent an apartment, (3) he or she was qualified to rent the apartment but was nevertheless rejected, and (4) the apartment was rented shortly thereafter to someone not in the protected class.  Gamble v. City of Escondido, 104 F.3d 300, 305 (9th Cir. 1997).

Under the CFEHA, it is unlawful for the owner of housing to discriminate against a person based on, inter alia, his or her familial status.  Cal. Gov. Code § 12955.  A plaintiff seeking liability for a violation of the CFEHA must prove familial status discrimination according to the same standards as a plaintiff suing under the FHA.  Walker v. City of Lakewood, 272 F.3d 1114 (9th Cir. 2001).  Whether the plaintiff has stated a cause of action or made out a prima facie case of discrimination under the CFEHA is a question of law for the court.  […]

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