The federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) prohibits discrimination in housing based on a person’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability.
Familial Status Housing Discrimination
Under the FHA, familial status discrimination occurs when a landlord, property manager, real estate agent, or property owner treats someone differently because they have a family with one or more individuals who are under 18 years of age.
A “family” also includes people who are pregnant and people who are in the process of securing legal custody of a person under 18 years of age, including a family that is in the process of adopting a child, or foster parents.
All families with children are protected by the FHA against familial status discrimination, including single-parent households and same-sex couples with children.
Common Violations of the FHA
There are many forms of familial status discrimination.
These are just a few examples of conduct that may violate the FHA:
- Refusing to rent, sell, or negotiate with a family because the family has one or more children under 18 years of age.
- Telling a family no unit is available even though a unit is in fact available.
- Forcing families into housing units that are larger than necessary.
- Designating certain floors or buildings for families with children, or encouraging families with children to reside in particular areas.
- Charging additional rent, security deposit, or fees because a household has children under 18 years of age.
- Advertising a preference for households without children or otherwise discouraging such families.
Examples of Discriminatory Statements
“We don’t rent to families with children.”
“Each child must have their own bedroom.”
“This neighborhood has a lot of retirees. You might be happier in an area with more kids.”
“Families with kids must rent first floor units.”
“Families with kids may only rent in buildings near the playground.”
A landlord may limit the number of people allowed to live in a dwelling based on a reasonable occupancy code. However, if a landlord uses an occupancy standard that is stricter than what is allowed by the local occupancy code, then it may constitute discrimination under the FHA. For more information, contact the Fair Housing Project.
Overly Restrictive Rules
Examples of Discriminatory Rules
“Pool rules: children under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.”
“Persons under 18 years of age must be in their home or on their patio by sunset.”
Housing for Older Persons
What you should do if you believe you have experienced housing discrimination:
- Contact the Fair Housing Project and report the discrimination to us.
- Keep a journal of incidents of discrimination.
- Write down what you experienced, including names, dates, addresses, rental terms, and any other details about your interaction.
- Keep any documents related to the discrimination, including all emails and text communications.
- Following the incident, you have one year to file an administrative complaint or two years to file a lawsuit in court.
Contact the Fair Housing Project. The Fair Housing Project is available to provide information concerning a person’s rights under the federal Fair Housing Act. If you believe you are a victim of housing discrimination, contact us by clicking here or by phone at 1-855-797-3247.