How Families Are Protected From Housing Discrimination

8 Ways Fair Housing Protects Families

A family talking with a real estate agent, representing protections for families seeking housing.

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The Federal Fair Housing Act protects seven specific groups of people. Families are one group that is protected from housing discrimination under this Act. Learn how Fair Housing defines a family, the actions that are considered discrimination, and a family’s rights if they feel they are being discriminated against.

When Did Familial Status Become Protected?

The Federal Fair Housing Act was created in 1968. However, families were not initially a protected class under this act. Familial status did not become a protected class under the Act until 1988, 20 years after the Act was first created.

Who Does Familial Status Protect?

You may be wondering how Fair Housing defines a family. According to their definition, to be considered part of this protected class, you must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Parents who have one or more children under the age of 18 living with them.
  • Legal guardians who have one or more children under the age of 18 living with them.
  • The designee of the parent or legal guardian of a child under the age of 18. This designation must have been made in writing by the child’s parent or legal guardian.
  • A person in the process of being granted legal custody of a child under the age of 18.
  • Pregnant women.

Can Landlords Designate a Part of Their Buildings for Families?

No. Segregating a property is a form of housing discrimination. Landlords must grant all individuals the ability to rent an apartment in any part of the building. Any prospective tenant should have the right to live in any unit in the property, as long as they meet the qualifying standards the landlord has for all tenants.

Can Landlords Charge Higher Rents for Tenants with Children?

No. Rent prices must be set based on the size and quality of the apartment, not based on who will be living in the property.

Charging families a higher rent would be considered a discriminatory housing practice under the Fair Housing Act. While a landlord might believe that charging more money could be warranted because of potential destruction or noise caused by the children, any exclusions or special conditions placed on one group and not another is simply discrimination.

Can Landlords Refuse to Rent Apartments on Higher Floors to Families?

If you have an apartment on a higher floor of a building, you may be reluctant to rent to a family. However, this is not a limation you may place on the property. It is up to the family to decide if they are comfortable living on a higher floor. You may have concerns about children falling from windows or balconies on higher floors, but as long as your property is up to code and you have followed all safety laws, such as window guards if necessary, it is the parent’s responsibility to protect their children from harm.

In addition, never try to dissuade a pregnant woman or family with small children from renting a walk-up apartment on a higher floor because it would be too hard for them. Any such advice would be considered discriminatory. If you have concerns about noise complaints, consider installing carpeting.

Can I Refuse to Rent to a Family if My Property Has Known Lead Paint Hazards?

No. Landlords cannot refuse to rent to a family because there are known lead-based paint hazards in their property. This is considered discrimination.

The landlord is responsible for providing the prospective tenant with the lead paint disclosure form, which will make the prospective tenant aware of any known hazards. The prospective tenant must then make their own decision about allowing their children to live in an apartment with known hazards.

Exemptions From Fair Housing Rules for Families

Yes. There are certain communities that are not required to allow families to live in their property and it is not considered against the law. Properties that are considered housing for the elderly do not have to allow families with children into their property. These include:

  • Communities that have been created under a government program and approved by the HUD secretary as having been designed for and occupied by the elderly.
  • Buildings in which everyone in the building is 62 years of age or older.
  • Properties in which eighty percent of the building’s occupied units have at least one person who is 55 years of age or older. The building must also be intended to house individuals 55 years of age or older.

Examples of Discriminatory Statements in Ads

  • "No Children Allowed"
  • "Adults Only"
  • "No One Under 18 Years Old"