Fair Housing Napa Valley Programs
Tenants, Home Seekers, and HOA Members
If you feel you have been the victim of housing discrimination, please call Fair Housing Napa Valley. An experienced and knowledgeable staff person will talk to you about your experience and will determine whether you have a Fair Housing complaint. Staff will also provide education and counseling about your rights and options and, if appropriate, open an investigation on your behalf.
A Fair Housing investigation may include interviews, document review, property surveys, and testing, among other investigative strategies. Fair Housing services also include advocating on behalf of persons with disabilities through assistance with reasonable accommodation and modification requests to their housing providers.
Following investigation of a Fair Housing complaint, FHNV staff will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to file a Fair Housing complaint. If such evidence exists, Fair Housing Napa Valley has three options:
- Educating the housing provider regarding the discriminatory act(s) in question and negotiating an agreement that restores your Fair Housing rights;
- Filing an administrative complaint with the appropriate federal or state government enforcement agency (HUD, DFEH), where FHNV represents you during the process; or
- Pro bono legal assistance to file a case on your behalf in federal or state court.
The most appropriate action will primarily depend on the facts and circumstances of each case, and will be determined by your assigned Fair Housing Specialist and the Executive Director. Fair Housing Napa Valley will not file administrative complaints or pursue legal alternatives when investigations do not produce sufficient evidence. However, staff is happy to provide you with forms and information about the administrative process if you choose to file a complaint on your own.
If FHNV determines that you do not have a Fair Housing complaint, staff will provide you with information about your legal rights, and may investigate/ address your complaint as a Landlord/ Tenant matter for further counseling and assistance. FHNV is also part of a broad network of community partner agencies and resources, and staff can provide other outside housing-related referrals depending on your needs.
Fair Housing Napa Valley’s mission is to develop and promote equal access to housing choice for all residents. As part of these efforts, FHNV regularly works with housing providers — property owners, HOAs, property managers and management companies, and developers — to ensure that they understand and are in compliance with fair housing and law. Please contact our agency for objective information about your rights and responsibilities as a housing provider. All services are confidential and free of charge.
Services for housing providers includes:
- Information regarding your obligations and rights under Fair Housing laws
- Counseling and investigation of inquiries/ complaints
- Review of existing rental practices, policies, and rules to ensure compliance with the law
- Fair Housing Workshops for you and your staff
What area does FHNV serve?
As with all of its programs, Fair Housing Napa Valley’s Fair Housing service area includes all of Napa County and the City of Vallejo. If you live or provide housing within our service area, or have experienced housing discrimination at a property located within our service area, you are eligible for our services.
Frequently Asked Questions
To read responses, please select to reveal them.
What is fair housing?
In April of 1968, a week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Congress passed the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), making it illegal to discriminate against anyone in the sale or rental of housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin. The passing of the Fair Housing Amendments Act in 1988 added protections based on disability and familial status.
Similarly, California has prohibited certain types of discrimination in housing since 1963. Under state law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the Unruh Civil Rights Act provide additional protections against discrimination. In addition to characteristics listed under federal law, California also bans housing discrimination on the basis of marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, ancestry, age, source of income and arbitrary characteristics.
It is important to note that federal and state Fair Housing laws only prohibit discrimination based on a protected characteristic. A bank can deny a mortgage application due to poor credit, or a housing provider can refuse to rent to someone due to their income, or if they have an eviction on their record. Though these reasons may not be fair, they are not illegal if applied equally to all applicants. To violate fair housing law, a housing provider must treat someone differently because of a protected characteristic. For example, it would be a violation of the law if someone was denied a mortgage because of race, or denied a rental unit because they have children. There must be a connection between the negative treatment and one of the listed characteristics.
Who is protected under fair housing laws?
The protected classes defined under Federal and State fair housing laws are listed below. Definitions of each class, and examples discrimination on that basis, can be found by clicking here.
Federally Protected Characteristics
- National Origin (Ethnicity)
- Familial Status
State Protected Characteristics
- Sexual Orientation
- Gender Identity & Expression
- Marital Status
- Source of Income
- Arbitrary Characteristics
What type of housing is covered by fair housing laws?
The Fair Housing Act covers most housing, although there are exceptions- most notably owner-occupied buildings with four or less units and some single-family homes. California law, however, is more extensive and covers almost every type of housing and housing provider imaginable. Under FEHA, there are only four circumstances in which the law does not apply:
- Owner-occupied units wherein the owner is leasing to only one boarder
- Religious organizations providing certain types of housing may limit occupancy to people of the same religion
- Private clubs providing certain types of housing may also give preference to members
- An individual may state a preference for a roommate of a specific sex if sharing living spaces
In general, if a person or entity is managing your housing or any housing-related services in any way, Fair Housing laws likely apply. Housing discrimination laws have been applied to property owners, managers, maintenance staff, real estate brokers and agents, homeowners associations, mobile home parks, local housing authorities, and governments. In some cases, courts have also interpreted the laws to apply to some hotels, motels, vacation rentals and homeless shelters.
Fair Housing laws also cover neighbor-on-neighbor harassment based on any state or federally protected characteristic. For example, homeowners or tenants who engage in harassment against their neighbors on the basis of race or national origin may be held liable under the FHA. A housing provider can also be held liable for this type of action by its tenants if it does not address the harassment once notified.
What types of actions are prohibited by fair housing laws?
It is illegal to commit any of the following actions because of someone’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, familial status, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, ancestry, age, source of income, or because of an arbitrary characteristic:
- Refuse to rent or sell housing
- Refuse to negotiate for housing
- Make housing unavailable
- Apply different terms, conditions, or privileges with respect to the sale or rental of housing, either before or after an individual purchases or rents a dwelling
- Provide different housing services or facilities
- Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
- Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing
- Refuse to grant a reasonable accommodation or modification so that a person with disabilities has equal access to the housing of his/her choice
- In mortgage lending:
- Refuse to make a mortgage loan
- Refuse to provide information regarding loans
- Impose different terms or conditions on a loan, such as different interest rates, points, or fees
- Discriminate in appraising property
- Refuse to purchase a loan
- Set different terms or conditions for purchasing a loan
- Threaten, coerce, intimidate, or interfere with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise that right
- Advertise or make any verbal or written statement that indicates a limitation or preference on the basis of a protected characteristic (This prohibition against discriminatory advertising applies to all housing, even if exempted from other portions of the FHA and FEHA)
- It is also illegal to implement a neutral policy that has the effect of discriminating on the basis of a protected characteristic, or perpetuating segregation based on a protected characteristic. This is called disparate impact discrimination
- Individuals who assert their rights under the Fair Housing laws, or assist someone in asserting their rights, are protected from retaliation.
Though discriminatory actions may seem straightforward, they can be quite complex. For example, did you know that disability discrimination can include actions based on perceived disabilities (where the aggrieved person is not actually disabled)? Or that familial status discrimination includes banning children from playing outside? If you feel you may have been the victim of housing discrimination, please contact FHNV for more information!
File a Fair housing Complaint
Do you feel you have you been the victim of housing discrimination? Fair Housing Napa Valley investigates allegations of housing discrimination. Please select the link below to submit a complaint and our staff will contact you about your it. To file an anonymous complaint, or to speak with a staff, please call (707) 224-9420.
Submit a Complaint with FHNV
Contact Us Today!
If you need assistance, or would like information about your Fair Housing rights and responsibilities, please contact us today. All services are free and confidential. Counseling is offered in both English and Spanish, and interpretive services in other languages are also available. You may contact us by phone at (707) 224-9420, via e-mail, or submit a question via our website.