Karen McCay

San Jose and Santa Monica Office Managing Partner
(she, her, hers)
P 408.918.2832 | F 408.286.5722
Spencer Fane attorney Karen McCay


Karen McCay’s practice involves all aspects of real estate and contract law, with particular emphasis on operational issues in the multi-family housing industry. Her residential rental housing experience is divided into two spheres – market-rate and subsidized housing.

With more than 20 years of experience, much of Karen’s law practice is dedicated to preventative advice and compliance counseling for non-profit and for-profit businesses, although she remains strategically involved in her clients’ litigation as well. Karen’s clients range from large REITs, individual property owners, and management companies to developers, large and small non-profits, and local housing authorities. In addition, she conducts trainings in fair housing, preventing sexual harassment, disability accommodation and similar subjects for clients and industry organizations such as the California Apartment Association, AHMA-NCH, Leading Age, Housing California, and CSH (formerly known as the Corporation for Supportive Housing).

Karen also works frequently with staff at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee regarding issues relevant to the affordable housing industry and was instrumental in drafting the California Addendum to HUD Leases, which has been approved for use throughout California. She also has assisted many of her for-profit clients in navigating the uncertain waters of various local Below Market Rent Programs.



  • American University, Washington College of Law, 1995 (J.D.), magna cum laude
  • University of Florida, 1991 (B.S.B.A.), with honors

Bar Admissions

  • California
  • Florida

Court Admissions

  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California
  • U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
  • U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida

  • Housing Industry Foundation, Board of Directors, 2003-2017
  • San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors, 2007-2012
  • AHMA-NCH, Board of Directors, 2009-2011
  • Church of the Valley Retirement Homes, Inc., Board of Directors, 2010-2014

  • Junior League of San Jose, Sustainer of the Year, 2015
  • San Jose Silicon Valley Business Journal, Woman of Influence, 2011
  • AHMA-NCNH, Associate Member of the Year, 2009
  • American University Law Review, Articles Editor, 1993-1995

  • California Bar Association
    • Law Practice Management Section
    • Real Property Law Section, Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Subsection
  • Florida Bar Association, Out of State Practitioners Division
  • California Apartment Association
    • Legislative Steering Affordable Housing Subcommittee
    • Fair Housing and Discrimination Subcommittee

  • “California Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Practice Guide,” The Rutter Group
  • “Fair Housing Hot Topics,” California Apartment Association Rental Housing Conference & Expo, April 5, 2016
  • “Legal and Practical Considerations for Providing Preferences to House the Homeless,” City of San Jose Supportive Housing Roundtable, January 26, 2016
  • “Legal Issues Seminar,” LeadingAge CA, 2015 Senior Housing Conference, October 14, 2015
  • “Legal Tips & Tricks for Property Managers,” AHMA-NCH Annual Conference and Trade Show, September 21, 2015
  • “Legal Tips & Tricks for Property Managers,” LeadingAge CA, 2015 Annual Conference & Exposition, May 5, 2015
  • “Fair Housing and You,” California Apartment Association, Rental Housing Conference & Expo, April 8, 2015
  • “Avoiding Fair Housing Pitfalls,” Malibu Association of Realtors, October 28, 2014
  • “Legal Issues and Trends in the Rental Housing Industry,” Southern California CAA Connect Rental Housing Conference & Expo, August 27, 2014
  • “Preventing Housing Discrimination: A Practical Course of Dos and Don’ts,” CSH, May 21, 2014
  • “Accommodating the Disabled,” Northern California CAA, Connect Rental Housing Conference & Expo, April 9, 2014
  • Hoarding Panel Discussion, AHMA-NCNH, Annual Conference & Trade Show, September 9, 2013
  • Fair Housing Panel Discussion, AHMA-NCNH, Annual Conference & Trade Show, September 9, 2013
  • “Developing Projects for Multiple Targeted Populations: Legal and Practical Best Practices to Help Avoid Fair Housing Complaints,” LA County of Mental Health, Housing Institute, June 12, 2013
  • “Fair Housing and You: Don’t Flunk Out – Study Up on Legal and Practical Fair Housing Issues,” CAA Greater Bay Area Rental Housing Expo, April 30, 2013
  • “Legal Regulations & Requirements: A Discussion of Legal and Practical Concerns When Processing Accommodation Requests,” CSH Property Management Knowledge Exchange, April 24, 2013
  • “Ask the Attorney 2013 Hot Legal Topics in Affordable Senior Housing,” LeadingAge California, February 12, 2013 (Pasadena) and February 20, 2013 (Walnut Creek)
  • “Legal and Practical Considerations for Lotteries, Waiting Lists” Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits, March 2019