The kids are out of school. Summer is here.  Many apartment communities around the country have pools and playgrounds.  Which are a great way for adults to cool off and for kids to have fun.  But, what about community rules for pools and playgrounds?  Particularly those pools without lifeguards.  Doesn’t it make sense (and be a management best practice) for our communities to have rules preventing kids from swimming alone as a legitimate safety issue?  Or to prevent kids from playing in or near a parking lot?  Yes, but you need to be careful as to how management writes those rules so as not to get into fair housing trouble.

As I have written many times in this space, familial status (families with children) was added as a protected class to our Fair Housing Act (FHA) in 1988. The immediate result of that change in the law was that (with limited exclusions for certain housing for older persons), the “adults only” apartment communities went away.  And we must be careful in drafting community rules that, even with the best of intentions, appear to discriminate against families with children.

To illustrate, a pool which is promoted as for “adults only” or has swim times only for adults could be found to discriminate against children. Best practice is not to do that.  Similarly, drafting a rule that says “children must be supervised at all times while in the pool” sounds good on the surface, but may not work.  Is it really reasonable for a 17 year old high school swimmer to need adult supervision?  A better practice is to prohibit running or horseplay on the pool deck and requiring supervision at the pool of anyone who cannot swim.  Yes, I know some properties want to have safety rules preventing, for example, kids under age 10 from being at the pool alone.  I absolutely agree with the intent of such a rule and that type of policy can be defended on safety grounds (as opposed to simple convenience of adults), but using ages can invite a potential claim.

Next up, what about a rule preventing kids on that playground from running through the nearby parking lot? Sounds logical.  But a good practice point is not to limit the rule to kids because doing so could implicate discrimination against families with children.  A solution?  Simply prohibit running, skateboarding (and/or horseplay) by anyone through your busy parking lot.  That is a rule that makes good sense, is enforceable, and will not violate the fair housing laws.

Again, rules involving safety are fine. Let’s just try to ensure they cover what you want and comply with the law.  Indeed, you might just want to speak with a lawyer like me in an effort to reduce the risk that your rules (even those with the best of intentions and done for safety reasons) will be subject to unnecessary scrutiny.

Just A Thought.