How Apartment Rules To Protect Children Could Be Discrimination

The Grace Hill training tip of the week focuses on how rules you think could protect children, could actually open up landlords and property managers to charges of discrimination.

By Ellen Clark

Normally, when you think of familial status discrimination, you likely think of things like refusing to rent to families with children, charging families with young children higher deposits, or steering them to certain buildings.

But what about rules or policies that are intended to protect children?

Could these be discriminatory?

 A story from a condominium complex in Fremont, California brings to light the issue around policies or rules that are intended to protect children, but actually could subject the property management to discrimination charges.

A condominium complex had a long-standing rule that tenants’ children could not run and play outside within the complex gates. The rule was set up by the homeowners’ association, citing safety concerns, and threatened to fine residents for violations.

 One of the residents claimed that she and her children were subjected to threats, intimidation, and harassment. A housing nonprofit called Project Sentinel brought a class action lawsuit pro bono and recovered $800,000 from the condo managers. Additionally, board members of the homeowners’ association must undergo fair housing training and post signs indicating that children are allowed to play outside.

 Excluding children from areas other residents can use could be discrimination

This news item reminds us that excluding children from areas that other residents can use could be considered discrimination—even if the intent of the exclusion is to protect them.

 Here are some tips for working with families with children in a way that complies with fair housing law.

 When working with prospective residents, it is ok to ask about the number of people who will live in the apartment home, but do not ask questions specifically relating to children.

Three questions to avoid asking:

  • How many adults and children will be residing in your apartment home?
  • How many children are in your family?
  • How old are your children?

Instead, ask: “How many people will be residing in your apartment home?”

Do not discriminate against families with children by stopping or restricting children’s use of community facilities or services. Safety and liability are still important, but you must create your community policies carefully.

 Avoid statements like:

“Children may not skateboard on community property.”

 Instead say: “Skateboarding is prohibited on community property.”

You may require direct adult supervision during children’s use of community provided services and facilities. However, the rules must not unreasonably restrict a child from using the amenities.

 Don’t prohibit children from using amenities

Avoid rules such as:

“Children under the age of 14 are prohibited.”

 Instead, say: “Persons under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult.”

 Familial status was added as a protected class in 1988 with the signing of the Fair Housing Amendments Act.

 This act made housing discrimination against families with children illegal and protects not only married couples with children, but also those who are single parents, legal guardians, mothers who are expecting, and people in the process of obtaining legal custody of a child.

Take time to review this important area of the law with employees so that families with children feel both safe and welcome in your community.

 Read Ellen’s blog post here.

About the author:

Ellen Clark is the Director of Assessment at Grace Hill.  Her work has spanned the entire learner lifecycle, from elementary school through professional education. She spent over 10 years working with K12 Inc.’s network of online charter schools – measuring learning, developing learning improvement plans using evidence-based strategies, and conducting learning studies. Later, at Kaplan Inc., she worked in the vocational education and job training divisions, improving online, blended and face-to-face training programs, and working directly with business leadership and trainers to improve learner outcomes and job performance. Ellen lives and works in Maryland, where she was born and raised.

About Grace Hill

For nearly two decades, Grace Hill has been developing best-in-class online training courseware and administration solely for the Property Management Industry, designed to help people, teams and companies improve performance and reduce risk.