Los Angeles, Calif. – Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) and co-counsel Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) have filed a lawsuit against 22 providers of rental housing in the City of Los Angeles for alleged source-of-income discrimination. The providers are accused of refusing to rent to a disabled participant of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program (Section 8).
The Section 8 program is financed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide rent subsidies in the form of housing assistance payments to private landlords on behalf of extremely low, very low-income individuals/families, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities. It has been illegal to discriminate against Section 8 participants under California law since January 1, 2020. Still, discrimination remains widespread and disproportionately impacts BIPOC and disabled people.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Robert Gardner, alleges that each of the providers named in his complaint turned him away when he tried to rent their available apartments, telling him it was their policy not to accept Section 8. “For almost a year, I experienced widespread housing discrimination when seeking housing to rent with my voucher,” says Gardner. “I hope this lawsuit teaches landlords that source-of-income protections are not an option, but the law.”
“For low-income and disabled tenants, voucher programs like Section 8 are the difference between housing stability and homelessness,” said DREDF Senior Attorney Michelle Uzeta. “Additional resources must be put into combatting Section 8 discrimination and ensuring that the vouchers have the impact they are supposed to – that is – getting people into available rental units.”
“With over 43,000 families participating in the Section 8 program in the City of Los Angeles it is imperative that landlords follow the law and accept tenants in the community that rely on the Section 8 program,” stated LAFLA attorney Manuel Villagomez. “Presently there are thousands of voucher holders, many who have waited years to obtain their one hope for stable affordable homes, who cannot find housing. Landlords who refuse to accept Section 8 are not only violating the law, but also exacerbating the housing and homelessness crisis.”
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court (Gardner v. Serrano Family Apartment LTD LP et al., Case No: 23STCV01872), alleges violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act and Unruh Civil Rights Act, among other claims, and seeks policy changes, fair housing training and monetary damages. Read the full complaint here.
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Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), based in Berkeley, California, is a national nonprofit law and policy center dedicated to advancing and protecting the civil and human rights of people with disabilities. Founded in 1979 by people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities, DREDF remains board- and staff-led by members of the communities for whom we advocate. DREDF pursues its mission through education, advocacy, and law reform efforts, and is committed to increasing accessible and equally effective healthcare for people with disabilities. DREDF supports legal protections for all diversity and minority communities, including the intersectional interests of people within those communities who also have disabilities.
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) is a nonprofit law firm that seeks to achieve equal justice for people living in poverty across Greater Los Angeles. For over 90 years, LAFLA has been changing lives through direct representation, systems change, and community empowerment. Every year, LAFLA provides free, high-quality legal services to more than 100,000 people—leveling the playing field and ensuring that everyone can access the legal system. Our unique combination of neighborhood offices, self-help centers at courthouses, and domestic violence clinics puts LAFLA on the front lines in vulnerable communities, and at the forefront of change.