Source of Income (Fair Housing Ordinance)

Community Development Agency
For rent sign in front of a house

Prior to the 2020 enactment of SB 329 Housing Opportunities Act of 2019, the State’s law on housing discrimination based on source of income (California Government Code Section 12927) did not protect individuals or families with third party rental subsidies.

In March of 2017, the Marin County Board of Supervisors adopted the Marin County Source of Income ordinance, which eliminated limitations on the provision of rental housing for families and veterans who receive third party rental assistance. Source of income protection prevents landlords from advertising or stating a preference for certain source of income, from charging a higher deposit based on a person’s source of income, and from treating a person differently based on their source of income. It also establishes that an income requirement can only be applied to the tenant’s portion of the rent if they receive a third-party subsidy.

This ordinance applies to all properties in the unincorporated areas of Marin County. Other local jurisdictions that have passed similar source of income ordinances include the Town of Fairfax (2018), City of San Rafael (2018), City of Novato (2018), and Town of San Anselmo (2018).

The Ordinance defines source of income as “all lawful sources of income or rental assistance program, homeless assistance program, security deposit assistance program or housing subsidy program. Source of income includes any requirement of any such program or source of income or rental assistance.” In addition, the Ordinance prohibits the following:

  • To interrupt, terminate, or refuse to initiate any transaction in real property because of a tenant’s source of income.
  • To include in the terms or conditions of a transaction in real property any discriminating clause, condition or restriction due to the tenant’s source of income.
  • To refuse or restrict facilities, services, repairs or improvements because of the tenant’s source of income.
  • To make, print, publish, advertise, or disseminate any notice, statement or advertisement with respect to a transaction in real property that indicates preference, limitation or discrimination based on source of income.


Source of Income (Fair Housing Ordinance) FAQs

  • What are the implications or this ordinance?

    This Fair Housing Ordinance requires housing providers to consider applicants with third party rental subsidies in the same way they consider all other applicants. The ordinance bans advertisement or statements of preference for an applicant based on their source of income. In addition, landlords may not require higher deposits or different lease terms, or treat a person differently based on their source of income.

    This ordinance does not force landlords to rent to any applicant that does not meet their typical requirements, so long as those requirements are permissible under fair housing laws.

  • What does "third party subsidies" and "source of income" mean?

    All third-party subsidy is a rental housing subsidy paid directly to a landlord on behalf of the tenant. Common subsidies include "Section 8", Housing Choice voucher, Housing Opportunities for Peoples with Aides, and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers, which are used in the private rental market and pay a portion of an individual or family's rent. The vouchers are intended to assist families, veterans, the elderly, and people with disabilities to move to areas of opportunity with access to better housing, schools, and jobs. These subsidies are considered a source of income.

  • Can a housing provider still screen applicants?

    If a housing provider has a screening protocol, this ordinance requires that housing providers screen applicants and tenants on equal terms, regardless of an applicant or tenant's source of income. Landlords may still screen tenants using criteria such as references, rental history, or even credit history, so long as the same selection criteria is applied equally to all applicants. Landlords may impose income requirements on applicants so long as those requirements are only applied to the portion of the rent that the tenant is responsible for.

  • Are there incentives available to landlords providing rental units for subsidy recipients?

    Marin Housing Authority (MHA), in partnership with the County, worked closely with the landlord community to develop an incentive toolkit to address perceived or real concerns associated with participation in third party rental subsidy programs administered by MHA. The Board of Supervisors has approved funding to provide the landlord incentives listed below:

    • Vacancy loss coverage;
    • Loss mitigation pool;
    • Security deposits;
    • Landlord liaison to assist participating landlords and staff, with a 24-hour hotline to address any immediate or urgent concerns;
    • Deferrable, low-interest loans for the creation of Junior Accessory Dwelling Units and Accessory Dwelling Units; and
    • Reduction or waiver of building and planning permit fees for qualifying landlords (to qualify, 50% of homes on a given site must be rented affordably; fee waivers or reductions would be prorated based on the percentage of homes rented affordably;).
  • What do I do if I see illegal advertisements or experience discrimination based on source of income?

    If you see illegal advertisements or experience discrimination based on your source of income, contact Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California (FHAHC). FHANC is the leading organization in Marin County around Fair Housing issues. They conduct investigations, provide trainings to landlords, and provide counseling & legal/support services to tenants facing discrimination.

Source of Income Resources

Local Organizations