This week the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) announced that they settled a case against a landlord accused of violating the state’s civil rights laws by refusing to rent an Orange County condominium unit to a military family.
The complaints alleged the landlord violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits businesses from discriminating on the basis of occupation or any other “arbitrary” basis, and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which prohibits owners of housing accommodations from discriminating on the basis of the source of a person’s income.
Viridiana Mendez inquired about renting the condominium unit in April 2016, intending to share it with her husband and their minor daughter. Ms. Mendez was questioned by the landlord and his wife. According to Ms. Mendez, the landlord expressed no reservations about renting to her until he learned that her husband, Albert Quintanilla, is a United States Marine and the family might leave the unit before the end of the full lease term if he received orders to deploy overseas.
The landlord allegedly told Ms. Mendez he would not rent to her or even give her a rental application because of her husband’s military service.
“Denying rental because of a family member’s military service is the type of arbitrary discrimination that California’s civil rights laws were designed to eliminate,” said DFEH Director Kevin Kish in the announcement.
DFEH’s settlement requires the landlord to pay Ms. Mendez $4,500 and undergo training on fair housing laws.
“Serving our country should not be considered a shortcoming in any rental application in the United States,” CalVet’s Secretary Dr. Vito Imbasciani said. “We have to recognize that our commitment to veterans and members of the military needs to be deep and sustained, throughout deployments and long after their discharge. Mr. Quintanilla should be rewarded for his service and sacrifice, not penalized.”