The Trainer — April 2016
Avoiding Discrimination Claims from Families with Children
In this month’s feature, we discussed how to avoid discriminating against families with children, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. Discrimination claims may arise from the way you advertise vacancies, show apartments, apply occupancy standards, and enforce house rules, to name a few aspects of day-to-day management. We gave you seven rules for what not to do when dealing with families with children—that is, potential trouble spots and how to handle them.
After contacting you by phone, a woman comes to your office to see an available one-bedroom unit. When she arrives, you’re surprised to see that she’s visibly pregnant. You know about frequent complaints the elderly couple living next door made about noise from the previous tenant’s children. To avoid similar complaints about a crying baby, you tell her that the unit is no longer available. Since she doesn’t have a child now, you couldn’t be accused of a fair housing violation. True or false?
A couple with two toddlers inquires about available two-bedroom units. There are three available—two on the ground floor and one on the fourth floor. There’s an obvious danger of children falling from balconies, so you don’t think they’d want the fourth-floor unit. Could you be accused of violating fair housing law if you tell them only about the two ground-floor units?
You manage a Section 202/8 site for the elderly. You are justified under the program’s rules to restrict occupancy to adults and deny occupancy to households with children. True or false?
ANSWERS & EXPLANATIONS
Correct answer: b
False. You could trigger a fair housing complaint for denying housing to the prospect by misrepresenting the availability of the unit because she’s expecting a child. The law banning discrimination based on familial status protects pregnant women in addition to families with children under 18.
Correct answer: a
Yes. Even if acting out of good intentions, you could be accused of violating the steering provisions, for example, by assuming that the family would be interested in only the ground-floor units. To avoid accusations of unlawful steering, you should tell them about all available units and let them decide where they’d prefer to live.
Correct answer: b
False. The protections for families with children extend to elderly HUD-assisted sites such as Section 202/8 sites for the elderly. According to the HUD Handbook, owners may not exclude otherwise eligible elderly families with children from elderly sites or elderly/disabled sites [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 3-23(D)(3)]. It’s important to note, however, that for HUD Section 202/8 sites for the elderly, an adult child is not allowed to move in after initial occupancy unless the adult child is necessary for the care and well-being of the elderly tenant [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 7-4(D)].