families with children
Familial Status as a Protected Class
"Familial status" means having a child under age 18 in the household, whether living with a parent, a legal custodian, or their designee. It also covers a woman who is pregnant, and people in the process of adopting or gaining custody of a child/children.
No one may deny housing, limit access to housing, discourage home seekers, or create different rules, fees, or standards because the family has or is expecting (a) child(ren). This includes rentals, purchases, lending, advertising, and any other transaction within the housing industry.
Does this mean that a housing provider can not deny or treat any household with children differently?
No. A housing provider has the right to refuse residents based on objective criteria, such as a credit history or bad tenant history. However, housing providers should set criteria and apply them equally to each household whether it has children or not.
Yes. It is okay to market to families with children. Indicating that families are welcome in a community does not deny any other protected class the opportunity to apply for housing.
When discussing or advertising a unit, do not point out that there is no on-site play area or that the community is on a busy street, unless this information is given to all applicants. Avoid words or phrases such as “adult community” or “perfect for matureprofessionals”, which reflect a preference for residents without children.
Reasonable rules are appropriate, but not everyone agrees what is "reasonable." Here are some guidelines. In general, rules should apply to all residents, and not just children. Rules that set limits may be reasonable if they are based on realistic not exaggerated health and safety concerns. Rules should address behavior, not status and should not be so restrictive that families with children do not get equal use and benefit of the housing.
We’ve had problems with teenagers causing property damage. Can we refuse families with teens or charge them a higher damage deposit?
We run criminal background checks on our adult applicants. Can we run them on teenagers too?
No. Designating specific units for families with children is called "steering" and is illegal. Housing providers should give all potential residents objective information about what is available and let applicants decide what unit is suitable for their household.
Safety concerns are not a valid reason to deny housing to families with children. If an unsafe condition exists on the property, consider making it safe for all residents to avoid general liability forinjuries. If that is not feasible, point out safety concerns to every applicant, not just families with children.
Also, HUD guidance states that it violates the Fair Housing Act for a housing provider to deny a family the opportunity to live in a dwelling that has not undergone lead hazard control. For more information on this issue visit www.FHCO.org/lead.htm.
Overly restrictive occupancy standards can have a disproportionate affect on families with children and are, therefore, illegal. According to HUD, any occupancy standards in housing should not be more restrictive than two indviduals per bedroom, assuming average sized bedrooms.
For more information on this issue visit www.FHCO.org/occupancy.htm.
No. Fees or surcharges for extra occupants have a greater negative effect on families with children than on households without children.
If an extra amount is charged, it must be based on actual (not assumed) increased utilities use or other legitimate business costs. Many communities have installed individual utility meters to monitor costs directly.
The only type of housing that is excluded from familal status protections is qualified housing for seniors. Those who intend to operate senior housing should get adequate information about meeting the qualifications.
The first place to start is with the language of the Fair Housing Act itself (http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/hce/title8.php) which states, in part...
Two other excellent resources in this area is HUD's Final Rule on the Implementation of the HOPA (www.FHCO.org/pdfs/HOPAfinalRule.pdf) and HUD's HOPA Q&A document (www.FHCO.org/pdfs/HOPAQ&A.pdf). These two documents collectively answer a good deal of questions about the senior housing exemption to familial status protection.
The key to this exemption is not the desire to exclude children but the intent to providing for seniors.
To be clear, there are only 2 legal definitions of senior housing--55+ or 62+. Now, neither HOPA nor the FHA change the definition of "elderly family"' in federally assisted housing programs and HUD advises federally assisted housing providers to continue look to existing program statutory and regulatory requirements to determine tenancy of those developments. That being said, any other definitions in the private, nonsubsidized market (ie: 18+, 40+, 50+, etc.) are not legal.
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