is All About Communication

Sometimes Avoiding Housing Discrimination Issues is all About Communication

By Karen Thompson – Dispute Resolution Program and Fair Housing Supervisor, North County Lifeline

1Every day there are conflicts somewhere between tenants and landlords. A lot of these are real issues where the interests of tenants and landlords are in conflict. But there are also many times where the problem is simply in the communication.

Take this recent example of a discrimination complaint: A local property manager was having trouble with tenants riding bicycles through the property’s courtyard. The rule against bike riding was completely reasonable and legal, especially since riding bicycles on the property created a safety issue. The manager complained to the tenants and posted a sign to make the rules clear.

But that’s where his good intentions went wrong.

First he complained to the bike riders by saying, “Hey – yeah, I mean you kids. I’m sick of telling you that you can’t ride your bikes in the courtyard.”  Then he posted a sign on the gate that read: Children may not ride bicycles in the courtyard.”

While it’s perfectly okay for the property manager to create rules and post signs enforcing them, it’s the way this manager communicated the rule that caused a problem. He made his rule specific to “kids” and “children”. And, while there is nothing wrong with limiting where tenants can ride their bicycles, it is not legal to make the rule specific to children, or any other group of tenants – the rule must apply equally to everyone.

CSA’s housing counselors handled over  500 inquiries from October 1 to December 31, 2015

This complaint could have been prevented had the property manager simply posted a sign that read: “Bicycle riding is prohibited in the courtyard.”

An understanding of tenant and landlord rights under Fair Housing laws helps avoid these kinds of conflicts. Children and other groups are protected from discrimination under Fair Housing rules.

CSA San Diego County offers free training to landlords and property managers to promote an understanding of Fair Housing rules and reduce inadvertent cases of discrimination.

If you need help with a Fair Housing claim, or would like to schedule free training, please contact CSA San Diego County’s Fair Housing Program toll-free at 800.954.0441 or email

CSA San Diego County’s Fair Housing Program is a free service offered to landlords and tenants in San Diego County and funded by the County of San Diego.

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