Landlords Can't Refuse Unmarried Couples

Smith v. Fair Employment and Housing Commission, 12 Cal.4th 1143, 913 P.2d 909 [1996]

October 1, 1997

WASHINGTON, D.C.--Landlords who cite religious beliefs for refusing to rent to unmarried couples have lost an important case.

The U.S. Supreme Court, without comment, left intact a California Supreme Court ruling that landlord Evelyn Smith violated a state fair housing law for declining to rent to an unmarried couple. Mrs. Smith, who owns four rental units, told the court that renting to people having sexual relations outside of marriage violates her Christian beliefs.

When the unmarried couple filed complaints with the state fair housing commission, the commission ruled against Smith. The case was appealed to the California Supreme Court, which upheld the commission’s ruling, saying that the renting of apartments is not a religious exercise.

The court said, “One who earns a living through the return on capital investment in rental properties can, if she does not wish to comply with an antidiscrimination law that conflicts with her religious beliefs, avoid the conflict without threatening her livelihood by selling her units and redeploying the capital in other investments.”

Salesperson’s Duties Can Survive Contract Expiration

CHICAGO--The legal duties that a listing salesperson owes the seller continue to exist if the salesperson ends up as the buyer of the property, the Illinois Appellate Court has ruled.

The case involved a seller named Andrew Letsos who had entered into a series of three-month listing agreements with a practitioner from Century 21–New West Realty. The listing agreements started in June 1990 and ended in March 1993. After the final agreement expired, the salesperson himself offered to buy the property for $92,000. After the sales contract was signed but prior to closing, the salesperson found a buyer who was willing to pay $115,000.

Without telling Letsos, the original seller, the practitioner resold the property to the second buyer for a $23,000 profit. Letsos sued, claiming that the salesperson and New West Realty had breached their fiduciary duties by not disclosing the existence of the second buyer.

The defendants argued that they didn’t owe duties to Letsos, since their listing agreement had expired. The Circuit Court of Cook County issued summary judgment in favor of the salesperson and the broker.

On hearing an appeal, the appellate court agreed that the conduct of the salesperson suggested that he continued to act as the seller’s agent after the listing agreement had expired. The court reversed the circuit court decision and sent the case back for trial (Letsos v. Century 21-New West Realty and Alex Brusha, 675 N.E. 2d 217,221 Ill. Dec.310 [1996]).

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