At the end of last week, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) issued a press release announcing that it charged the owner and manager of a condominium community in Colorado with discriminating against families with children under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). In the charge, HUD asserts that the owner and manager refused to rent units to individuals under 35 years of age as well as refused to rent to a fair housing tester who claimed to have a four year old child.

The case came to HUD’s attention when a local fair housing advocacy group challenged a number of newspaper ads which, on their face, appeared to violate the FHA. Specifically, the complaint alleges that the owner and manager placed no less than ten advertisements in a local newspaper offering the property for “1 or 2 people max, both over 40 years of age, no exception.” Other ads promoted the property as a “private, restricted adult…community” requiring renters at least 35 years old.

Now, just because HUD has filed a charge does not mean that the allegations are true. Always remember there are at least two sides to every story. The teaching moment here is simple: do not run advertisements which can be read as discriminatory on their face. A fair housing tester will see the ad as low hanging fruit.

Welcome all to your community, even if you think there is a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason (such as safety) to prohibit children (or to limit children to certain floors, buildings, or areas). If you are uncertain if your ad complies with the law, check with a lawyer like me. We can help with advertising compliance. Indeed, with a few exceptions (and it would not surprise me if the owner and manager here was attempting to designate the property as housing for older persons), the FHA has prohibited “adults only” housing since 1989. And if as is likely here, copies of the questioned ads were kept, it is an easy case for HUD to charge.

Just A Thought.