Continuing along a recent path, late last month HUD announced that it had filed another Fair Housing Act (FHA) discrimination complaint, this time against a management company in Texas asserting that the apartment community imposed overly restrictive rules on children under the age of 16. In the complaint, HUD alleges that the apartment community’s rules discriminate against families with children as rules prohibiting children under the age of 16 from being in their home without an adult, using the laundry facilities without an adult present, using the pool without an adult present, or using their scooters/bikes in the parking lot without an adult present violate the FHA. HUD further charged that residents were told that parking lots were not to be used as playgrounds and that if children were found playing in the street on their bikes or scooters, the families would be given a 24 hour notice to vacate.
Now, I am not involved with this case and I always want to hear both sides. From reading the complaint, it is certainly possible that at least some of the rules were developed with child safety in mind. Nevertheless, these rules were brought to the attention of a local fair housing group which conducted tests at the property. Those tests led to the HUD complaint.
This brings to mind another case in which a property owner published an ad for his apartment community, a property located on a busy street. The ad noted that because of the location, the apartments might not be the best place for kids. He wrote the ad purely as an effort to be truthful, descriptive, and because of legitimate safety concerns. Nevertheless, a local fair housing group was reviewing ads for housing and challenged the language, asserting that the ad violated the familial status provisions in the FHA. While we were able to negotiate a relatively inexpensive amicable resolution, my client remained very disappointed in the outcome as in his view he was just trying to help.
What should management do? Perhaps work with a lawyer like me to develop property rules which address legitimate concerns while at the same time reduce the chance that someone can claim you are violating the familial status section of the FHA.
Just a Thought.