Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that the owner and manager of an apartment community in Cleveland agreed to pay $100,000 to settle allegations of housing discrimination brought by families with children.

In the case, DOJ alleged that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) by following an illegal policy of refusing to rent apartments to families with children.  Additionally, the complaint alleged that the owner and manager had a policy of evicting tenants or asking tenants to move if they had a child or children while living at the community.  While FHA does contain an exemption to permit housing that is reserved for older persons under certain circumstances, this community did not meet the requirements for that provision in the law.

The settlement, which still must be approved by a federal judge before it is final, requires the defendants to pay $90,000 to victims of their discriminatory actions, and to pay $10,000 in civil penalties to the United States.   The agreement further mandates that the community remove any restrictions on occupancy by families with children, train its employees on the FHA and provide reports to DOJ to make sure that such discriminatory policies are not implemented in the future.

While there are always two sides to every story, this case is another cautionary tale that – in most cases – a professional apartment management company cannot simply refuse to rent to an applicant because he or she has a child or children.  To be sure, if you want to attempt to qualify your community as housing for older persons – you will really want to speak with a lawyer like me to help ensure your property can meet all of the tests in the law.

Just A Thought.