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Landlords can't discriminate against families with children

June 07, 2009|Martin Eichner

Question: I am a landlord who rents to older adults in a very quiet neighborhood. Right now I have a vacancy listed.

I have had a few prospects for potential tenants but so far the people who have come to see the unit are much younger families with young children. I am concerned that they will disrupt the atmosphere.

I just want to keep everyone happy. I also don't think that this place would suit families with children because there are not many kids in the neighborhood. Do I have to rent to families with children?

Answer: Generally, a landlord cannot refuse to rent to an applicant because there are children in the family.

Moreover, the requirements for rental and the terms and conditions must be the same for families with children as for any other applicant or tenant.

For example, a landlord cannot decide to rent units on only one side of a complex to families with children to avoid tensions with other tenants who desire quiet.

Additionally, a landlord cannot deny second- or third-floor apartments to families with young children, even when their intention is to prevent possible injury.

The one exception to this rule involves housing that has been specifically designated as housing for senior citizens (people 55 and older under some statutes and 62 and older under others).

To qualify as senior housing, a housing provider must meet specific requirements that may include a minimum number of units, age-based residency limits and design features.

-- Martin Eichner, Project Sentinel


Eichner is director of Housing Counseling Programs for the Sunnyvale, Calif., mediation service. To submit a question, go to

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