Do Grandparents Have Rights?

When Andrea was two years old, she went to live with her grandparents on a full-time basis. She had lived with them for eleven years when her grandparents moved to an apartment complex in Los Angeles County. Shortly after living at the complex, her grandparents were told by the manager that Andrea was not allowed to be outside at anytime without adult supervision. Andrea’s grandparents objected to the rule, finding it ridiculous that a teenager couldn’t be outside alone, but they told Andrea, on that occasion to come inside. As the weeks went by, the manager kept harassing Andrea about being outside without adult supervision and eventually threatened her grandparents with eviction if Andrea were caught outside alone again. Have Andrea and her grandparents been discriminated against? Well, the Fair Housing Act protects families with children, but does that include a grandchild living with her grandparents? The short answer is that the discriminatory actions are wrong because they were taken because of the age of a child. The fact that Andrea’s grandparents were injured because of those discriminatory actions enables them to file a claim against the landlord.

No Biking, No Skateboarding, No Playing Outside

As the years have gone by, more and more landlords in California have come to realize that it is actually illegal to discriminate against families with children. But it does not mean that all landlords have stopped discriminating against families with children. Instead, what it means is that landlords are becoming more subtle about discriminating against children. For example, many landlords who used to have written rules that said things such as, “Children may not ride their bikes or skateboards in the common areas,” have now changed their rules to say, “No one may ride their bikes or skateboards in the common areas.” Are the landlords still trying to accomplish the same goal? Absolutely! But they are not being blatant about it. Why not? Because they don’t want to get in trouble for making statements that indicate limitations or discrimination based on familial status (i.e., against children). But are their modified statements illegal? While their statements do not violate a certain portion of the Fair Housing Act, the statements may violate a different portion of the Fair Housing Act. If you have any questions, please, visit our website at www.sfaganlaw.com.

What?!! It's gone?!!

Paul and Hope, a mixed racial couple, had no trouble finding an apartment, for Hope, who is white, went into the office alone and asked for an application to rent. Paul was at work at the time. “Oh, honey, we have a wonderful one bedroom apartment that would suit you and your husband just fine,” the manager, Betsy, said to Hope. She then proceeded to take Hope over to look at the apartment. It looked perfect to Hope. It was just what she and her husband were looking for: near the freeway and close to work. “How much is it?” “For you, it would be $700. And I’ll throw in $200 off the first month’s rent.” The price sounded right, so Hope asked Betsy if she could quickly call her husband. “Sure, go ahead. I’ll meet you back at the rental office. I’ll just be doing some paperwork.” As such, Hope stepped out of the apartment and called Paul. After she and Paul talked, they agreed that Hope should get an application and put a down payment on the apartment. Hope thus walked back over to the office and asked Betsy for an application and to give her a down payment. “You look trustworthy, dear. But go ahead an fill it out anyway, so that I don’t get into trouble with my boss. The down payment will be $100. That will hold the apartment for five days.” With that, Hope filled out the application and gave her a check for $100. Before leaving, Hope asked if she and Paul could come by to see the apartment later that evening. “No problem, but I’ll only be here until six o’clock.”

When Paul got off work, he and Hope came to look at the apartment. They arrived around 5:30 p.m. and went into the office. “Hi, Betsy. This is my husband, Paul.” Suddenly a look of horror came over Betsy’s face when she saw that Paul was African American. “Oh, it is nice to meet you, Paul, but I have terrible news for you.” “What’s wrong?” asked Hope. “Just after you left, another couple came by and rented that apartment. I’m so sorry.” “But I gave you a $100 check to hold it for five days,” said Hope in disbelief. “Yes, but the check had not cleared yet, so my boss told me to just go ahead and rent it to the other couple and to place you guys on a waiting list.” “That doesn’t seem fair,” chimed in Paul, “we were here first.” “I know. I know. But our policy is that if someone has cash in hand, then we do not turn them down.”

Something wasn’t right, and Paul and Hope knew it, but they didn’t know what to do. Unbeknownst to Paul and Hope, there was not another couple seeking to rent the apartment. Rather, Betsy was discriminating against them because of Paul’s race. Betsy, briefly stated, was violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent the apartment to Paul and Hope.

If you have experienced similar treatment, then, please, visit www.sfaganlaw.com to see how we can help. We help tenants (and those seeking apartments) from San Diego to Los Angeles to Fresno to Sacramento to Oakland to San Francisco, and all over the State of California.

May My Children Play Outside?

Landlords love peace and quiet. Why? Because it makes it easier for them to rent their apartments. So one of the things that landlords love to do is to forbid children from playing outside of their apartments in the common areas of the complex. In the old days, landlords were blatant about their intentions; they created rules that expressly said, “Children may not play in the common areas of the complex.” But with the passage of the Fair Housing Act and California’s Fair Employment & Housing Act, landlords had to become more creative. Nowadays, landlords pass rules that state things such as, “No bicycling, skating, skateboarding, etc.” in the common areas. Why do they typically pass such rules? Because they don’t want children playing in the common areas. But they know that they can no longer expressly say what they mean or they will violate the tenants’ rights. Are those rules legal? Not necessarily. If you are curious if your landlord’s rules are legal, then feel free to contact us at www.sfaganlaw.com or by calling us at (858) 220-9601. California tenants have rights, so find out what they are, whether you live in San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland, or Sacramento.

Let's Go See Grandma!

Five-year old Mellisa was excited. “Let’s go see Grandma!” she shouted to her mother. Mellisa’s grandma had just moved from San Diego into a nearby apartment complex in Sacramento. “Alright, but first brush your teeth.” Melissa quickly ran to the bathroom, brushed her teeth, and then ran back out to the kitchen. “I’m all done, Mommy! Can we go now?” she gleefully asked. “Let’s go,” replied her mother.

Just a few minutes later, they arrived at Grandma’s new apartment complex and headed to her unit. Once there, Grandma welcomed them into her apartment, but quickly told young Melissa, “You have to be real quite at Grandma’s house; otherwise, they might kick me out.”

Grandma’s news scared Mellisa. And, in childlike manner, she replied, “Okay, Grandma, I’ll be real quite.”

Melissa’s intentions were well, but before long she was out on Grandma’s patio playing with her dolls and singing. Inside, her grandma and her mother were busy talking. And then the doorbell rang.

“Yes,” Grandma asked the gentleman at the door.

“Mrs. Smith, if your grandchild does not quite down, then I am going to have to give you a written warning. You know the rules, children are not allowed to play outside and they may not be loud.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, sir. I’ll talk to my granddaughter and have her come inside. It won’t happen again.”

With that, the gentleman left and Grandma went to her patio and asked Melissa to come inside. “How come, Grandma?” she passively asked.

“Kids aren’t allowed to play here, Mellisa, so you’ll have to come inside.” Dejectedly, Melissa picked up her dolls and headed inside. Before long, Melissa and her mother headed home.

Over the next few weeks, this same scenario played out several more times. Finally, Melissa got to the point where she didn’t want to go her Grandma’s house anymore, for she felt very uncomfortable. Even her mother felt awkward about going to see her own mother, so they started avoiding trips to Grandma’s house and, instead, began inviting Grandma over to their house. While Grandma didn’t really like to drive, she would make the trip occasionally for Mellisa’s and her daughter’s sake, but she really would have preferred to have them visit. But she understood how management had made her family feel unwelcome. She realized that she was just a tenant and presumed that she had no real rights as a tenant, even though she felt as though they were discriminating against families with children (or grandchildren, in her case).

Whether Grandma knew it or not, she was the victim of unlawful discrimination and had the right to do something about it. If you or your grandparents face this type of discrimination in California, then, please, contact us at sfaganlaw.com, or at (858) 220-9601 and we’ll let you know how we may be able to help you.

Merry Christmas?

Voltaire, the French writer and historian, said it best: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Yes, Christmas and Hanukkah are just around the corner. And, yes, the past few years have shown us that just around the corner are landlord-tenant disputes over the display of signs that say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” or “Season’s Greetings.” But does the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) apply to such claims? Is it wrong for a landlord to forbid tenants from putting up signs in their windows that have a religious message? In October, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals answered the first question in the affirmative, stating, “In our view, the FHA does apply to [such] discrimination . . .” Committee Concerning Community v. Modesto, Case No. 07-16715 (9th Cir. Oct. 8, 2009) at *14397. The Ninth Circuit’s decision is encouraging, for some of our nation’s highest courts have held that the Fair Housing Act does not apply to such claims. In time, it appears that the U.S. Supreme Court will have to intervene and determine the issue once and for all.

In the meantime, what happens if a tenant’s landlord says, “Take down the picture of the menorah in your window?” or “You cannot tack to your door a sign that says ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus’ because it might offend someone?” Do the landlord’s statements violate the Fair Housing Act?

For over 11 years, I have been fighting on behalf of tenants whose rights have been violated under the Fair Housing Act and related California laws, including the Fair Employment & Housing Act. This holiday season, I am gearing up for such battles. So if you need such special attention, then, please, contact me, and I’ll take care of the problem. Until then, if you would like to see a list of FAQs regarding the Fair Housing Act, then please visit my new website at http://www.sfaganlaw.com./ If I can answer any questions, please, do not hesitate to contact me at (858) 220-9601.