How Landlords can Avoid Discrimination on the Basis of Familial Status

Protected Classes Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA)

As I have written here Fair Housing Act Risks Touch More Businesses Than You Think!

And here Fair Housing Act Trap for Real Estate Owners and Agents, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on housing on the basis of Race, Color, National. Origin, Religion, Sex, Disabilities, & Familial Status.

A Very Recent Claim of Discrimination Based on Familial Status

The U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) just last week charged the owners of a 2,600 square foot, four-bedroom (plus habitable den) house in Nampa, Idaho with violating the FHA because they refused to rent it to a family of two adults and seven minor children. The landlord arbitrarily set a limit of four children for the entire house.

HUD is seeking actual damages and penalties on behalf of the family.

The City of Nampa does not have a square footage per person requirement governing occupancy of single-family houses.

Nampa does have an occupancy restriction governing multifamily units. It uses a formula of the gross area divided by 200 square feet. This house of 2,600 square feet could accommodate 13 people under that formula.

HUD’s Fair Housing Act guidelines presume 2 people per bedroom to be reasonable, absent other factors that could shrink or expand the number of people per room in a given dwelling.

HUD also takes a dim view of limiting the number of children per bedroom.  They encourage landlords to think in terms of “people per bedroom.”

The Do’s and Don’ts:

DO find out if there are applicable occupancy rules.

DON’T set arbitrary occupancy limits on rental housing, especially if they have the effect of making it hard for families with children to rent your dwelling.

Michael Oswald

Please note: the above post contains educational information. It is not intended as legal advice. Engage an attorney who is licensed in your state to get advice on dealing with any specific legal issue.

© 2019 Michael S. Oswald

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