Our preliminary research indicates that there are a number of government and non-government agencies in California that act to protect the rights of tenants within the state. Below are examples of such organizations:
- The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is the primary government agency responsible for the protection of tenants' rights in California. The department is empowered by several state laws with the objective of ensuring fair housing laws in the state. Some of the laws and regulations relied upon by the agency include the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), California Family Rights Act (CFRA), and Disabled Person's Act.
- DFEM is responsible for protecting Californian residents from harassment and hostile environments attributable to landlords and property management services. According to the agency's regulations, a tenant may file a complaint against the homeowner on issues such as harassment and hostile environment if they feel they have been unfairly treated.
- The state of California protects individuals from illegal discrimination by housing providers based on their age, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Willful disenfranchisement of individuals in any of these categories constitutes harassment.
- The form of harassment that can be reported is not only limited to physical contact. Tenants may file complaints if they perceive that they are harassed in any other manner. The agency recognize that hostile environments in housing can be in the form of written, visual or verbal communication, intimidation, coercion, quid pro quo, revealing private information, or other conducts that are discriminatory.
- In addition, the agency does not require the tenant to demonstrate psychological or physical harm to prove that a hostile environment existed or exists. However, evidence of psychological damage or physical harm may be relevant in determining the amount of damages to which an aggrieved person may be entitled.
- Complaints can be filed here.
Rental Protection Agency - California.
- A tenant can use the RPA service to file official legal complaints against their landlords for issues relating to harassment, unfair lease terms, housing code violations, unlawful eviction or entry. The service also provides free legal advice to tenants who require help.
- The Rental Protection Agency acts as a mediator between the landlord and the tenant. Tenant complaints are usually processed within 15 hours, and agreements reached through the RPA are legally binding and enforceable. Such complaints can also be used as evidence in court.
- Complaints can be filed here.
Summary of Findings
In the initial hour of research, we were able to identify the primary government agency responsible for the protection of tenants' rights in California, as well as a non-governmental agency that serves as an advocate on behalf of renters in the state. In addition, we discovered the DFEH is the de facto agency that caters to cases of tenant harassment, especially cases involving protected groups such as the elderly. Other government agencies mostly refer tenants to DFEH or the local courts.