What Is Arbitrary Discrimination?

Arbitrary discrimination is unique to California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act and is intended as a sort of catchall category. It has been interpreted to ban discrimination based on those personal characteristics that have no relation to a person’s ability to be a good tenant. The ban on age discrimination in housing, for example, is a direct result of a court’s interpretation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act. Other types of arbitrary discrimination would likely include discrimination based on a person’s political affiliation, group membership, physical appearance, unconventional dress, or military service. 

Essentially, the idea behind this category is to prevent housing providers and businesses from preferring or discriminating against groups of people for unreasonable reasons. If there is no legitimate business reason to justify a discriminatory policy, then there is a chance that it will be considered illegal. 

Because the category is a bit amorphous, it is difficult to provide a list of every characteristic that might fit the definition of arbitrary discrimination. We encourage people who feel that they have experienced housing discrimination based on an arbitrary characteristic to contact us for a consultation. 

What Does Arbitrary Discrimination Look Like?

The following may be signs that a housing provider or housing-related service is engaging in arbitrary discrimination:

  • Advertisements that state a preference for or against student renters
  • Being told that the owner doesn’t like to rent to people with tattoos or piercings
  • Statements that a building is full of professionals, so you may not “fit in”
  • Refusals to rent or sell to veterans or persons enlisted in active military service
  • Being told that you may not want to purchase a home in a Republican neighborhood because you identify as a Democrat
  • A property manager allowing tenants to place signs supporting some candidates or propositions in their windows, but not others

Arbitrary Discrimination Resources

Government Resources

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