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.