If you are denied an opportunity to buy or rent a home or apartment—or given false information by a housing provider—because of your national origin, you are a victim of illegal housing discrimination. It is also illegal for landlords or other housing providers to treat in-place residents differently because of their national origin. Issues involving language access and intentional exploitation of new immigrants—sometimes by people of the same group—can also be viewed as national origin discrimination.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, national origin discrimination can be based either upon the country of an individual’s birth or where his or her ancestors originated. Similar terms might include “culture,” “nationality,” “ethnic group,” or “ancestry.” In Kern County, California, the largest ethnic group is Latino (or Hispanic). However, Kern County’s population includes residents who trace their personal journey or family history to every corner of the globe. There is no question that cultural differences can sometimes lead to misunderstanding, confusion, and even hostility; but there is no room for housing discrimination because of them.
Examples & Warning Signs of National Origin Discrimination
- Refusing to rent to undocumented immigrants or process their applications because they do not have a social security number or other identification available only to U.S. citizens and documented residents. (Exception: some federally-funded housing programs, like Section 8 and public housing, are required to verify legal U.S. residency.)
- Threatening to contact immigration authorities because a tenant requests repairs or makes other complaints.
- Advertising property for sale or rent only in non-English languages (it is legal to advertise only in English).
- Segregating people into different parts of an apartment complex or steering them to different areas or neighborhoods because of their national origin.
- Refusing to provide documents (contracts, notices, etc.) in a tenant’s primary language if required by state or federal law.
If you suspect that you are a victim of housing discrimination on the basis of your national origin, contact the GBLA Fair Housing Law Project (FHLP).
FHLP Cases Involving National Origin Discrimination
In a Bakersfield neighborhood, two families—a non-Latino family in the main house, and a Latino family in a second home on the same lot—were complaining to their out-of-town landlord about one another. The Latino family complained that their non-Latino neighbors, who claimed to be connected with a White supremacist gang, were making threats and harassing them because they were immigrants; but the non-Latino neighbors told the landlord that the Latino family was causing all the trouble. FHLP investigated the case by interviewing other neighbors up and down the street, and the evidence clearly showed that the non-Latino family was terrorizing the Latino family. When the landlord failed to take appropriate action to protect the Latino family’s “right of quiet enjoyment,” FHLP helped them get a restraining order against the non-Latino family. Supported by a court judgment that the non-Latino family was responsible, FLHP warned the landlord that failure to protect his tenants from national origin discrimination was a violation of federal and state fair housing laws, and the landlord finally agreed to take action. However, immediately after the restraining order was issued, the non-Latino family moved out voluntarily, so the Latino family was free to live in peace for the remainder of their tenancy.