I am just out of college and have a job working as a receptionist at a nonprofit agency—in other words, I don’t make much money.One friend from college and another friend I met at work have decided to try and find an apartment together because none of us can afford to rent an apartment on our own. Pooling our salaries, though, we make more than enough to meet the minimum income standards of most of the three-bedroom apartments in our area. We are having a hard time finding an apartment, though: one of the places we applied told us that the owner preferred to rent to married couples because they are “more stable”, another told us that unless two of us were married, each one of us would have to individually meet the minimum income requirements, and a third landlord told us that he prefers to rent to “conventional families” rather than “random groups of unrelated people.” Is this legal?
Not in California. Under California Fair Housing law, housing providers may not discriminate based on marital status. This means that a housing provider cannot prefer married couples over unrelated roommates, such as you and your friends, nor may they treat married couples and unrelated roommates differently in rental qualifications or terms. While a housing provider is entitled to decide what the minimum income tenants must have to qualify to rent an apartment, they must apply that standard consistently to all applicants. If the housing provider evaluates a married couple’s financial qualifications by looking at both spouse’s incomes collectively, they must do the same thing in evaluating the qualification of unrelated roommates. Please call your local Fair Housing agency for assistance and more information, or call Project Sentinel at 1-888--324-7468 or check our website at www.housing.org.