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April 23, 2008 > Celebrate Fair Housing Month

Celebrate Fair Housing Month

Submitted By Joyce Joyner

On April 11, 1968, one week after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the landmark Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to discriminate against people in housing based on their race, color, national origin, sex, which also includes sexual harassment or religion, was signed into law by President L.B. Johnson. Every year, the month of April is celebrated at the national and local levels as Fair Housing Month. April 11, 2008 marked the 40th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

In 1988, twenty years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the law was amended to include familial status which covers persons with minor children in the household, and persons with physical and/or mental disabilities.

Coverage for persons with disabilities includes the right of disabled persons to request reasonable accommodations and modifications. A reasonable accommodation is an exception or change that a housing provider makes to the rules, policies or services that will assist a resident or an applicant with a disability in taking advantage of a housing program and/or dwelling.

A reasonable modification is a physical change to the premises allowing a person with a disability to overcome obstacles that interfere with his or her use of the dwelling and common areas. The accommodation must be necessary for the individual with the disability to fully enjoy the services offered to other residents.

The Unruh Civil Rights Act of 1959 is a state law covering housing discrimination. This act has been interpreted by courts to prohibit discrimination by any business
establishment on any arbitrary basis regardless of whether or not that basis is enumerated in the Unruh Act itself. Factors deemed to be arbitrary include sexual orientation, source of income and occupation.

ECHO investigates allegations of housing discrimination through the use of trained
investigators. Victims of discrimination may be compensated in several ways. They may be able to get the housing they wanted or similar housing may be made available. In some cases, a cash payment may be made to reimburse for expenses caused by having to find other housing and for damages such as pain and emotional distress. When a discrimination complaint is resolved, the respondent is sometimes ordered to advertise vacancies in minority newspapers or to post an equal opportunity poster in their office.

If you believe that you or someone you know is experiencing housing discrimination, you should contact ECHO's Fair Housing Staff for a free telephone consultation at (510) 581-9380. If you are a landlord or a tenant with questions about fair housing you should feel free to contact ECHO about your fair housing rights and responsibilities.

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