I have touched on this topic before, but believe it is worth a refresher today. Every apartment community has rules. Many rules are designed to address legitimate safety concerns. But, we need to ensure our rules do not run counter to the Fair Housing Act’s (FHA) prohibition on familial status discrimination. HUD has charged any number of cases (resulting in settlements of over $100,000) in which rules (even those intended for health and safety) have been found too restrictive and, as such, violate the FHA. Easy calls are rules which, for example, “prohibit all children from playing in the parking lot.” A court will read that as discrimination against children. While bad fact patterns can make bad law, other charged cases include rules prohibiting kids riding bicycles, kids going to the clubhouse, or curfews on teenagers. Also difficult are rules limiting access to children and teenagers in apartment swimming pools – management writes them with child safety in mind. But simply inserting that “no one under 18 is permitted at the pool without a parent or guardian” can get you into trouble.
Again, most of the rules are written with good intent. But, they can have the unintended impact. So, what to do? Review your community rules with counsel with an eye toward ensuring they pass scrutiny. As noted above, age related rules are problematic. I suggest working with your lawyer to articulate what is the real purpose behind the rule. And talk to your lawyer to determine if there is a way to write that rule in such a manner that it does not appear to discriminate against children. To use the example from above, instead of a community rule which “prohibits children from playing in the parking lot” perhaps amend the policy to read that “nobody is permitted to play or loiter in the parking lot.” That policy will have the same impact, but reduces the chance your property will get hit with a familial status discrimination complaint. Make sense?
Just A Thought.