The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a recent familial status Fair Housing Act (FHA) case in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, asserting that the owner and manager of a small apartment community treated families with children “less favorably” than adults with respect to the use of various common areas. The complaint also claimed that management “printed and published” discriminatory statements which indicated an intent to limit access by children to the entire property.
According to the government, the apartment lease provided that there could be no children outside the building and that kids are not permitted to be in the hallways or yard (unless they are arriving at or leaving the property). Violations of the policy would result in a $50 fine. And, according to DOJ, management attempted to fine one set of parents when their child was found in the hallways of the building and threatened legal action if the fine was not paid.
Now, I always know there are two sides to every story. I am not making any determination as to the circumstances in this new matter. But, as you develop your resident lease and related community documents, I would strongly advise against a rule fining parents $50 if kids are “caught” outside the building playing or in the hallways. While I don’t know the facts here, it is certainly possible that management thought there was a safety concern with children outside. Indeed, one of my clients ran into a similar situation a few years ago when they wanted to prevent (as much as possible) kids from running in the parking lot, which was adjacent to a busy street, in what was believed to be a good faith effort to prevent an injury. Although they welcomed families with children to the property, a local fair housing tester group took the position that we were attempting to restrict families with children from the property. While we were successful in finding an amicable solution, it diverted resources having to spend quality time (and money) with me.
Sure, this is an extreme example. But the point here is to evaluate your community documents to ensure as best you can that nobody can make an assertion your property is treating families with children less favorably than adults.
Just A Thought.