How Fair Housing Rules Protect Families
The Definition of Family and Examples of Discrimination
Families are one of the seven classes that are protected under the Federal Fair Housing Act. The goal is to prevent discrimination against this group in any activity related to housing. Here are eight basic facts, including who is considered a family under the law and the specific ways they are protected.
When Were Families Protected Under the Federal Fair Housing Act?Although the Federal Fair Housing Act was established in 1968, familial status did not become a protected class under the Act until 20 years later, in 1988.
Who Does Familial Status Include?Under the Fair Housing Act, familial status is a protected class. To be considered a member of this class, you must meet at least one of the following criteria:
- Parents who have one or more children under the age of 18 living with them.
- Legal guardians who have one or more children under the age of 18 living with them.
- The designee of the parent or legal guardian of a child under the age of 18. This designation must have been made in writing by the child’s parent or legal guardian.
- A person in the process of being granted legal custody of a child under the age of 18.
- Pregnant women.
Can Landlords Have a ‘Families Only’ Part of Their Building?No. Landlords must grant all individuals the ability to rent an apartment in any part of the building. Segregating a property is a form of housing discrimination.
Can Landlords Charge Higher Rents for Tenants with Children?No. Charging families higher rent would be considered a discriminatory housing practice under the Fair Housing Act. You may believe that charging more money because of potential destruction or noise caused by the children would be warranted, but any exclusions or special conditions placed on one group and not another is discrimination.
Can I Refuse to Rent to a Family if the Apartment Is on a Higher Floor?No. It is up to the children’s parents to look out for the safety of the children. You may have concerns of children falling from windows or balconies on higher floors, but as long as your property is up to code and you have followed all safety laws, such as window guards if necessary, it is the parent’s responsibility to protect their children from harm.
- In addition, never try to dissuade a pregnant woman or family with small children from renting a walk-up apartment on a higher floor because it would be too hard for them. Any such advice would be considered discriminatory. It is up to the individual to make the decision about where they feel comfortable living.
Can I Refuse to Rent to a Family if My Property Has Known Lead Paint Hazards?No. Landlords cannot refuse to rent to a family because there are known lead-based paint hazards in their property. This is considered discrimination. The landlord is responsible for providing the prospective tenant with the lead paint disclosure form, which will make the prospective tenant aware of any known hazards. The prospective tenant must then make their own decision about allowing their children to live in an apartment with known hazards.
Is Anyone Exempt from Fair Housing Based on Familial Status?Yes. There are certain communities that are not required to allow families to live in their property and it is not considered against the law. Properties that are considered housing for the elderly do not have to allow families with children into their property. These include:
- Communities which have been created under a government program and approved by the HUD secretary as having been designed for and occupied by the elderly.
- Buildings in which everyone in the building is 62 years of age or older.
- Properties in which eighty percent of the building’s occupied units have at least one person who is 55 years of age or older. The building must also be intended to house individuals 55 years of age or older.
Examples of Discriminatory Statements in ‘For Rent’ Ads:
- "No Children Allowed"
- "Adults Only"