What Tenants Need To Know About Family Discrimination When Renting

If you're living in a rental with young children, you may have experienced discrimination from your housing manager or your landlord. It's actually illegal to discriminate based on familial status in the United States, but this does not prevent some landlords from trying to avoid family renters with children because children are an increased liability to the property itself. Here are some common (and illegal) ways that a landlord can discriminate against families:

1. Evicting because of tenant complaints about children.

You might have been served an eviction notice because children are too loud and other tenants do not like the noise. Children do make more noise than adults, especially babies who wake and cry during the night. This is not a legal reason to evict children.

2. Preventing children from using community facilities.

Your landlord might allow you to rent a place in the complex, but in the same contract, they might write a policy preventing children from using common areas, including grass and outdoor play space. This is not permitted. All young tenants should have the same use of the facilities as any other tenant, unless, of course, the facility is an obvious danger to children. 

For example, a landlord could not prevent children from playing ball on the grassy space behind the complex, but they could require parental supervision when using the complex swimming pool.

3. Moving you to a "family" apartment. 

Have you ever tried to rent an apartment only to be told there are no "family" units left to rent, and that all available apartments are for singles or couples instead? It's actually illegal to reserve or confine families to specific units. Landlords do this to contain the damage that young children can cause, meaning that family apartments have fewer updates and more wear and tear. 

4. Charging you more for children.

If your landlords requires an extra damage deposit for children or charges you more after a new baby is born, you should talk to a lawyer. Some landlords will charge per person rent, but if this is not specified in your contract, it's discrimination. Children are not pets. You should never have to pay a child deposit like you would a pet deposit, and you should never have to pay an extra fee on a monthly basis if you have a child living with you.

For more information, contact a civil rights lawyer near you, such as The Law Offices of Douglas F. Fagan.