Apartment Discrimination, Discriminate
 
Select a Question:
- Can An Apartment Require Families With Children To Live In A Particular Section of the Complex?
- Can An Apartment Refuse to Allow Children to Play Outside?
- Is an Apartment Complex Allowed to Make Rules Just for Kids?
- How Strict Can An Apartment's Rules Be Against Children?
- Can an Apartment Complex Rent to Adults Only?
- How Do I Know If I Have Been Discriminated Against?
- What Does the Fair Housing Act Prohibit?
- Skateboards, bicycles, and scooters: Can they be prohibited?

Can An Apartment Require Families With Children To Live In A Particular Section of the Complex?

No. This is a completely illegal practice, but it happens all of the time. It is illegal for a landlord to segregate families with children into one particular area of the complex. Likewise, it is illegal for a landlord to prohibit families with children from living in a particular section of the complex, such as upstairs or in the "quiet area" of the complex. The law requires ALL tenants to put up with some noise from children, even if they don't like it.

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Can An Apartment Refuse to Allow Children to Play Outside?

A landlord cannot require children to remain indoors. If a landlord requires a tenant to keep their children locked up indoors at all times, then this is illegal. A landlord may not penalize families who allow their children to play outdoors at the apartment complex. It is illegal for a landlord to claim that the peace and quiet of the tenants requires that children not play outside. Simply put, children are allowed to play outside and they may make reasonable noise while doing so. If a family is punished for their children acting like normal children (e.g. the kids aren't lighting fire crackers or playing drums in the open courtyard), then this is illegal discrimination.

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Is an Apartment Complex Allowed to Make Rules Just for Kids?

In most cases, no. The Fair Housing Act states that it is unlawful for a landlord or owner to make or print any rules that indicates any limitation or discrimination based on familial status. In other words, your landlord cannot make rules that unfairly effect families with children. For example, it is illegal for an apartment complex to have rules that prohibit children living upstairs, from swimming in the pool, from playing with toys or riding bikes on the premises, or rules that prohibit children from crying loudly. In short, any rule that singles out children may be considered illegal and discrimination against families that have children.

Example of Discriminatory Rules Against Children: If an apartment complex were to pass out a rule which said that all children under the age of 16 must be in their apartments by 7 p.m. or their parents may be evicted, then this would violate the Fair Housing Act, for the rule indicates a limitation or discrimination based on the age of the children. In other words, the rule only applies to children.

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How Strict Can An Apartment's Rules Be Against Children?

It is a common misconception that an apartment complex can make rules against children. This is completely false, however, it happens all of the time. In rare situations, apartments can make some, limited rules against children. Absent the rare situation, it is illegal for apartments to have rules which prohibit children from playing outside, riding bikes, playing with toys, laughing, screaming, or having fun.

The only time that an apartment can make rules against children is if there is a potential danger to children and the rule isn't too broad. For example, it would be okay for an apartment to have a rule that says, "No children under 5 years of age in the pool without a parent." This rule is reasonable and protects the child. However, it would be illegal if the rule said, "No children under 17 years of age may be in the pool without an adult." This rule is much too broad, as some children under 17 years might not need assistance.

It is always illegal for an apartment to have rules which state, in effect, that children are not allowed to play, walk, sit, stand, or talk in the common areas. In other words, it is illegal to require children to stay indoors. This is true even if children cause noise. The law realizes that children make noise and requires society to put up with this noise, provided that the children aren't being unreasonably loud. For example, it would be okay for an apartment to prohibit children from playing drums or playing their radio very loudly. However, it would be illegal for an apartment to penalize children for laughing, talking loudly, or getting excited in public. Although a landlord may want a quiet complex, the law does not permit it. Rather, the law requires all complexes to accept reasonable noise from children. By the way, if a landlord threatens or attempts to evict a person because their children made reasonable noise, then this would be discrimination.

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Can An Apartment Require Families With Children To Live In A Particular Section of the Complex?

No. This is a completely illegal practice, but it happens all of the time. It is illegal for a landlord to segregate families with children into one particular area of the complex. Likewise, it is illegal for a landlord to prohibit families with children from living in a particular section of the complex, such as upstairs or in the "quiet area" of the complex. The law requires ALL tenants to put up with some noise from children, even if they don't like it.

Can an Apartment Complex Rent to Adults Only?

In very rare cases, a complex can refuse to rent to families with children. However, this is an extremely rare situation and will be discussed at the end of this section. In the vast majority of case, however, it is illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent an apartment, condominium, or house to somebody because they have children. If they refuse to do so, then they are guilty of discrimination even if the landlord appears to have a good excuse.

For example, a landlord might state, "We don't allow families with children because most of our tenants work at night and sleep during the day and kids would wake them up." It would be illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent based upon this excuse.

As for the exception, if a community is a retirement community and is officially designated as "Over 55" or "Senior Housing," then children may be excluded. It is very easy to spot such communities. These communities must prominently display the fact that they are "Over 55" or "Senior Housing." If a community doesn't classify as such, then they have no legal right to exclude children.

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What Does the Fair Housing Act Prohibit?

The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental, or in the terms, conditions, or privileges of a dwelling because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (i.e., families with children under the age of 18), or handicap.

It is illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent an apartment, condominium, or home to somebody because that person will have children living with them or due to their race. It is also illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant due to the fact that the tenant has children.

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How Do I Know If I Have Been Discriminated Against?

Sometimes, you won't have a clue that you have been discriminated against. Nevertheless, be suspicious if you hear the following statements:

1. "I'm sorry, but after you called, I rented that apartment to someone else."

2. "Sorry, but we do not have a waiting list."

3. "I cannot let you look at the apartment until you show me your green card."

4. "There is an additional charge for each child who will live with you."

5. "This building is for adults only."

6. "We cannot have any handicap people living here, for we don't have the proper facilities."

7. "For safety's sake, we don't allow families with small children to live upstairs."

8. "Sorry, but we don't allow college students to live here."

9. "I don't really want all those changes--a ramp, grab bars--that simply is too much."

10. "Perhaps you would find it more comfortable living down the street."

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Skateboards, bicycles, and scooters: Can they be prohibited?

A: Yes and no. Generally speaking, a landlord cannot prohibit activities of children unless there is a compelling need to do so and the rule is not too invasive. It is not unusual for an apartment complex to post rules that state that skateboards, bicycles, and scooters are not allowed. Usually, these rules are enacted to put an end to annoying kids. This isn’t a legal reason for such rules. As noted in other parts of this website, the desire for peace and quiet is not grounds for prohibiting children from playing. Rather, the landlord can only prohibit activity if the landlord can show that there is a serious threat of injury if the activity is permitted to continue. Moreover, even if the possibility of injury can be shown, the rule cannot go too far. For example, if the complex has a narrow sidewalk and children have crashed their bicycles into other tenants, then it may be okay to prohibit bike riding. However, the rule would go too far if it also prohibited toddler bicycles or push cars, as nobody is reasonably going to get "run over" by a toddler bike or push car.

The same thing would apply to an apartment rule that prohibits throwing footballs, baseballs, or any other device. If there is a true danger present, then it can be prohibited. However, if there is no real danger, then it cannot be prohibited. For example, it would be okay to prohibit throwing hard baseballs, as a baseball could cause injury to person or property. However, it would be inappropriate to prohibit a nerf football, a sponge ball, or any other safe throwing device.

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