Continuing on a theme of late, last week the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) charged a New York property owner with violating the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) when he refused to rent an available apartment home to a father with a teenager.
Factually, the property is a mixed-use building with an office on the first floor and two residential units on the second floor. The residential floor contains a two bedroom apartment and a one bedroom apartment. The building also has a parking lot. The apartment in question is allotted one space in the parking lot. HUD’s complaint asserts that the father telephoned the owner to inquire about the one bedroom apartment after seeing an ad for the unit. HUD alleges that the prospective renter believed the apartment would work well and would accommodate his son for the three nights a week that they would be together and that once the son headed off to college, the one bedroom unit would not be too large for him to live in alone.
The applicant completed the necessary paperwork, including a notation that his son would live in the unit part time (in fact, he wrote “1.5” in response to the question of how many people would live in the unit, an answer that vexed the owner). After submitting the application, in a subsequent telephone call between the prospect and the owner, HUD claims the owner said “I don’t want any kids there” and “It is only a one-person apartment” as well as “I don’t want any kids there during the day as I have a dental practice downstairs.” In another call, HUD asserts the owner said he did not more than one person in the unit because he was “concerned with the parking.”
Now, just because HUD makes a factual assertion does not mean it is true. But, for our purposes, this is a useful guide as to what apartment management professionals should never say when discussing housing options with a prospect. Unless the property is designated as housing for older persons, we welcome families with children. Further, while busy parking lots might be perceived as a benign safety reason for not wanting children at a property, that reason will not pass muster with HUD and may get you really needing to speak with a lawyer like me.
Just A Thought.