Late last month, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) settled a familial status housing discrimination case filed against property owners in Nevada. The DOJ’s complaint asserted that the defendants discriminated against families with children by placing a series of ads for a single family home in a local newspaper that stated a preference for adult residents as well as refusing to rent the home to a family with three children because, allegedly, the defendants did not want children living at the property.  Additionally, DOJ claimed that one of the defendants placed other discriminatory ads for an apartment community she owns that again indicated a preference for adult residents. The DOJ’s complaint was the result of an administrative action filed before the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development brought by a family who was rejected for the single family home.

Pursuant to the proposed terms of an agreement, which remains pending in U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, the defendants will pay $14,000 to the family denied the opportunity to rent the house, $10,000 into a victims fund to compensate other potentially aggrieved families, and $12,000 to the United States as a civil monetary penalty. As is common in these matters, the proposed deal includes a prohibition on future discrimination, requires the defendants to participate in fair housing training, and to provide periodic progress reports to the federal government.

I am, of course, mindful that there are always two sides to every story. Nevertheless, the takeaway for professional apartment management here is to run your advertising by a lawyer like me (or someone with an eye to fair housing issues).  There are individual prospects, fair housing testers along with federal, state, and local officials searching newspapers (and on-line classified advertising for housing) looking for language which may indicate an unlawful preference or improper discouragement.  Please do your best to comply with the law and remember that potential plaintiffs are out there.

Just A Thought.