Continuing to promote its fair housing efforts, last month the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the resolution of another Fair Housing Act (FHA) case, this one filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The matter settled for $100,000 and involved allegations of discrimination against families with children.  The defendants agreed to pay $45,000 in damages to the individuals who filed the complaints, $45,000 to other persons who are identified through a subsequent claims process, as well as a $10,000 civil monetary penalty to the United States.

The lawsuit, filed in October 2014, arose following a HUD compliant brought by a single mother who attempted to purchase a unit in a Wisconsin mobile home park. The defendants allegedly refused to approve her application for residency with her two year old child because the home was located in a portion of the park in which the owners had prohibited children.  After HUD conducted an investigation, the department concluded the defendants violated the FHA and referred the matter to the DOJ.

After the federal action was filed, the owners approved the residency of the single mother and she was indeed able to purchase the home in question. As a part of the settlement, the defendants were also required to amend their policies to allow families with children to live throughout the park.

While there are, of course, always two sides to every story, the takeaway here for professional apartment management is that unless you meet certain strict criteria regarding housing for older persons (which you should discuss with a lawyer like me), management cannot simply refuse to rent an apartment home to a family because the family includes a child.  Even with the best of intentions, this settlement is yet another reminder that it is not for management to decide if a unit is safe for kids or that kids should be prohibited as the unit is in a high traffic area.

Just A Thought.