Most people realize that discriminating based on things like race and gender are prohibited by law. However, we sometimes get requests from clients to not rent to people who have children. From their perspective, this is a reasonable request because they believe that children cause more damage to property. However, people with children are protected by fair housing laws in the same way that people of various races and religions are protected.
The way that the fair housing laws refer to this is by calling it “familial status.” What does familial status mean, exactly? Basically, you can’t discriminate against someone because they have children, are pregnant, or are planning on adopting children. In other words, if children are in any way involved, it’s protected. This means that not only can you not refuse to rent to people in this class, but you can’t even advertise in a way that would discourage people with kids from applying.
For example, an ad that said something to the effect of “house is perfect for empty nesters or senior citizens” might be inferred to be discouraging people with children, or people who plan to have children shortly, from renting the house. This would not be allowed, and the advertisement might even draw the attention of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which is the regulatory authority with the responsibility of overseeing fair housing compliance.
In fact, HUD, some special interest groups, and some civil rights law firms have been known to even test out landlords by calling and inquiring about renting while mentioning things that are covered by fair housing laws, to see if the landlord will deny or discourage someone in a protected class from applying. For this reason, you need to be very careful in how you word your ads and how you interact with potential renters. Anything that you write or say that could give someone the false impression that you are discriminating or even giving preference to certain groups could land you in hot water.
Our company prides itself on complying with all fair housing laws and going above and beyond to treat everyone fairly. If you’re looking for a company to manage your property so that you don’t have to worry about things like how to comply with fair housing laws, give us a call.