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RENTAL ROUNDTABLE

Rules for Children Are Unacceptable If Discriminatory

March 19, 2000|ROBERT GRISWOLD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Question: We live in an apartment community in Norco where there are a lot of children. At times it can get rather noisy, but our new manager seems to be going too far with rules specifically for the children. For example, we just received another new rule that says, "Children must be supervised at all times. Resident assumes responsibility for children visiting their unit. No skateboarding, roller skating, in-line skating, or bicycling are allowed in common areas. Children are not allowed to run up and down the stairs or walkways." Can they have rules like this?

Property manager Robert Griswold replies:

My colleagues must be rubbing off on me as my answer is: It depends. Owners and property managers must be very careful in writing their rules, regulations and/or policies to avoid discrimination against children. Children are a protected class under federal legislation enacted in 1988.

According to many experts in fair-housing education, discrimination in rental housing against families is still all too common.

The owner or property manager may establish reasonable rules or policies that pertain to the safety of children. However, any rules that discourage families with children from renting could very well subject the owner and property manager to charges of unlawful discrimination.

Rules such as "Children are not allowed to. . . ." are almost always going to lead to trouble. The generic "Children must be supervised at all times" is generally acceptable when the intent is safety rather than an attempt to unreasonably restrict or limit use of the facilities by children. In other words, a policy that children must be supervised and accompanied by an adult to use the pool is not only acceptable but important from a safety standpoint.

However, having a separate children's or family pool, or a policy that children can only use the pool during limited hours is clearly unacceptable. An example of an acceptable rule is the one you mention prohibiting skateboarding, roller-skating, in-line skating and biking as it applies to all age groups.

Be sure to contact your local Fair Housing Council or the California Department of Employment and Fair Housing for more information. The council can answer questions, perform investigations or provide training. It is a nonprofit association, not a government agency, that is supported by a diverse membership group committed to offering information and education. Look for property owners and managers that support the Fair Housing Council and provide equal access to housing for all.

Attorney Steven R. Kellman replies:

Landlords are allowed to make reasonable rules for the management of their property. They may not make rules that are so restrictive that they violate tenants' rights or are otherwise illegal as being discriminatory.

Rules about supervision and restricting certain activities such as skateboarding and running in the common areas seem to be for the safety of all residents and may be proper. However, rules may not be so restrictive as to deter families with children from living there. Further these rules should not apply to children only if they may also be applied to adults as well. For example, in your complex, are adults allowed to run, in-line skate or ride a bicycle in the common area? If so, with proper supervision, children should be allowed to do the same.

Beach Crowds Take All Nearby Parking

Q: I live in an apartment near the beach. When I signed my one-year lease, I was given one parking space and told that my other vehicle would have to be parked on the street. The problem is during the summer, when I can't find any parking within six blocks. Besides being a real hassle, I am concerned about my safety as I work late most nights. What are my rights and can I break my lease? Any suggestions?

Griswold replies:

Unless there is specific language in your lease, the landlord is under no legal obligation to provide parking. Thus, I do not believe that the sudden lack of parking close to your rental unit is grounds for breaking your lease.

Contact the landlord and explain your situation. Possibly the landlord knows of another tenant who is not using a space or who would be willing to rent the rights to a parking space to you, at least for the summer. Also, there is always the outside chance that the landlord may be willing to let you out of your lease because of your safety concerns--although there's no legal obligation to do so. Of course, if you break your lease, the landlord may be able to re-rent your unit, and you would be legally obligated only for the rent incurred until the new tenant moves in.

Military Clause Is Not Required

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