Last week, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) stated it decided to charge the owners/manager of a rental home in Idaho with violation of the familial status discrimination provision in the Fair Housing Act (FHA). HUD will assert that a couple (and their seven children) were not permitted to rent a home (with four bedrooms and supplemental living space) because of the number of kids.

The case was charged after HUD learned that the mother viewed an online ad for a rental house with 2,600 square feet, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two living rooms, and two additional rooms. The advertised monthly rental price was $1,200. HUD claims that when the mother called the property manager (who is the son of the owner) to ask about the rental property, she was told that the house was available, various lease terms, as well as what were the required deposits.

The next day, the couple (accompanied by two of their children) went to tour the house, complete an application, and pay the various deposits. At that time, the property manager inquired if the two kids were the only children who would be living in the home. The mother replied that, in fact, she has seven children. HUD alleges at that point, the property manager immediately told her to stop completing the application as the owner has a limit of four children for the property. Although the mother reached out again later in an effort to continue discussions about the rental, the manager declined to further engage.

As always, there are at least two sides to every story and because HUD charges a case does not mean the allegations are accurate. But for the property management industry, reflexively rejecting a family with children can subject that action to scrutiny. While the old standard was a general “two heartbeats per bedroom” – the more modern look requires an evaluation of the size of the property as well as the amount of living space. Also, certain states and local governments have adopted laws essentially ensuring that a home can be “two plus one per bedroom.”

So, while I do believe occupancy standards make good sense and remain a best practice, those standards need to be flexible to evaluate the number of bedrooms as well as the size of the living space.

Just A Thought.