California Officials File Discrimination Lawsuit Over Section 8
A group of civil rights activists in California recently filed a lawsuit against two landlords in Sacramento, claiming that they illegally treated a woman who was paying her rent through a Section 8 voucher. According to the lawsuit, the tenant was harassed and treated unfairly specifically because she was paying with a voucher. For quite some time now in America, it has been illegal for a landlord to deny renting to someone based on a Section 8 housing choice voucher. The law is quite simple: No landlord shall deny rent based on the means of payment. For most landlords, they prefer Section 8, because that's guaranteed money that's given to them every single month. Though some landlords have always historically acted in a discriminatory fashion toward Section 8 recipients, believing that they're not qualified to live in their properties and that the poor people will just trash the place.
This has never been that big of a problem in California. With rental rates so high compared to the national average, most landlords are just happy to get money and they don't rightly care where it comes from. So, in California, this will be the first ever lawsuit filed based on individual discrimination.
This is going to be tough to demonstrate in court. No other Section 8 tenants were discriminated against; only this particular woman. And the fact that she's alleging she was discriminated against by two separate landlords is really going to be a tough case to prove. She's alleging that she was discriminated against due to being black and female, and having Section 8. The issue here in California is that most people on Section 8 are racial minorities, and no one else is coming forward with similar complaints to join in the lawsuit. The overwhelming majority of Section 8 recipients in the state are black or Latino.
At best, this could end up as a classic "He said, she said" in the courts. At worst, this case could end up being dismissed, or the woman in question could easily lose due to the fact that the onus is on her and her legal team to explain why two separate landlords would independently discriminate against her, and only her, and how she wasn't somehow at fault.
Again, this will be the first lawsuit of its type brought up, and it's being brought up based on a state Civil Rights Department law from 2020 that makes it illegal to refuse rent paid with subsidies. Not a lot is known about this case thus far from the landlords' side, except that they're alleging the woman was a horrible tenant and their record shows that they rent all the time to people with Section 8 vouchers.
One thing boding in the woman's favor here is that one of the landlords sent her an eviction notice claiming that they had decided to remove their properties from the Section 8 program completely. If this is true, then the woman does have a case because that is specifically against state law. Time will tell how this case ultimately unfolds.
Lawsuits are Common, Verdicts are Not
In all 50 states, there are thousands of housing discrimination suits filed every year. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), only around 2% of lawsuits find any discrimination. Unfortunately, a lot of people try to game the system and file lawsuits in order to gain a monetary benefit. If someone wins a discrimination lawsuit, it's often the case that they can claim the property or other monetary damages from the landlord. It's estimated that over half of the housing discrimination lawsuits filed every year are sham suits, with someone trying to benefit monetarily who did not experience discrimination. Of course, those that do experience discrimination have a much tougher time proving it due to the fact that so many suits are frivolous.
States independently handle these discrimination cases, but housing discrimination is against the federal civil rights statutes. So, basically, things can get a bit messy in this department. States administer the federal Section 8 program, and states are expected to handle claims of discrimination. It's very rare for a discrimination case to make it to the federal level.
California has far more demand for Section 8 than they have supply, and if landlords are outwardly breaking the law and discriminating, the state will put a stop to this, even if they have to start seizing property.