By MyNewPlace Guest Blogger, Ron Leshnower – About.com’s Apartment Living Expert
Do you have children, or do you hope to have kids some day? If so, please take note of these two important points:
1) If you’re looking for an apartment with children, landlords can’t turn you away simply because you have kids.
2) If you’re already living in an apartment with children, landlords can’t make rules that discriminate against you and other families with children, unless those rules are about keeping kids healthy and safe.
I chose this topic because I have met so many people who have no idea that if you have a family with children in the United States, you’re protected against unfair housing discrimination. As a result, I’ve heard frustrating stories about the hard times some families have had, finally finding the perfect apartment only to discover that the building owner doesn’t want kids living there — and mistakenly thinking the owner has the right to turn families with children away.
But “familial status” is a protected class under federal housing discrimination law, thanks to 1988 amendments to the Fair Housing Act. Although countless instances of familial status discrimination go unreported each year (often because the victims didn’t know their rights were being infringed), many landlords and other housing professionals have had to pay thousands of dollars to settle charges of fair housing violations. (Check out two recent examples from my Fair Housing Blog.)
With the sole exception of certain senior communities, gone are the days of landlords having the right to say, “I don’t let kids stay here — the residents don’t like the noise,” advertising adult-only apartment complexes, or trying to evict good tenants simply because they decided to have a baby.
“Familial status,” a legalistic-sounding term, simply means the presence of one or more children under 18 living in a household. If you’re looking for an apartment or you’re already living in one, you should be happy to know that the term is broad. As I began with two important points, I’ll now leave you with two more that show how wide-ranging familial status protection is:
1) Adopted children count just as much as biological children. (See this example from my blog.)
2) You’re protected the moment you (or your spouse or partner) becomes pregnant or the moment you begin securing legal custody of a child. (See this example from my blog.)
Being a parent has its challenges, but having to look far and wide to find a landlord who will provide housing for you and your family shouldn’t be one of them.