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The scenario is all too common: a prospective tenant meets with the owner of a unit he is interested in renting and upon hearing that the tenant has children the owner quickly informs him that “they don’t rent to people with kids.”

The renter may not realize that he has just been a victim of familial status discrimination.

The US Department of Justice estimates that approximately 24% of the total complaints they receive each year involve discrimination against families with children.

Under the Federal Fair Housing Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, familial status discrimination is defined as unfair treatment by a housing provider because an individual has children. Familial status also includes any person who is pregnant or in the process of securing legal custody of any individual under the age of 18 years.

Familial status discrimination can take many forms including refusing to rent to families with children or enforcing restrictive house rules that target children’s activities, such as prohibiting children from playing outside or being in common areas without adult supervision. Many families with children are given different rental terms, such as being required to pay a higher security deposit under the assumption that children would damage the property more than a family without children. These assumptions are not only incorrect but illegal.

The fair housing laws ensure that families with children have the right to obtain and live in their housing on an equal basis with other residents.  Landlords  must base their rental decisions on business reasons (i.e. monthly income or credit score) not on personal beliefs or stereotypes.

Housing for older persons, such as senior buildings, are exempt and can require their tenants to meet certain age standards as a condition for tenancy, such as being 55 years or older.

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