Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a $110,000 settlement of a fair housing case filed in November 2013 in which the owner/management of a condominium community in Minnesota was accused of discriminating against families with children. The complaint asserted that the defendants unlawfully discriminated against residents with children by issuing and enforcing rules regarding the use of common areas at the property. The resolution includes an agreement from the defendants to establish a new non-discrimination policy in accordance with the Fair Housing Act, undergo fair housing training (which will specifically address issues involving families with children), pay a $10,000 penalty to the United States, and pay $100,000 to six families alleged to have been the victims of the discrimination.
As asserted in documents associated with the case, the defendants allegedly engaged in a pattern of discrimination by creating and enforcing rules in a manner that prevented children from equal enjoyment of common areas and by making statements that indicated a preference against families with children. The complaint alleged that the defendants required children to be supervised at all times when in a common area, prohibited or unreasonably restricted children from using the common areas and selectively enforced the common area rules by issuing warnings and violation notices to residents with children, but not to adult residents engaging in the same activities.
This case is yet another reminder that management must do more than simply allow families with children to live at our communities. We must also give families appropriate access to the common areas and amenities. If you draft your community rules and policies in such a way as to be able to be read in a manner which discourages or otherwise limits access to families, you very well may need to speak with a lawyer like me.
Just A Thought.