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Rent Watch: Can new rules suddenly limit children's play areas?

June 27, 2010|By Martin Eichner

Question: Everyone in my apartment community recently received a written notice of new house rules. One rule states that children are not allowed to play in the front lawn area and that children cannot use the community recreation room without adult supervision. I have two children, ages 11 and 9. Until now, they were allowed to play in both these areas. Can management make this change?

Answer: Whether the house rules can be changed in general depends on whether you have a current lease or are a month-to-month tenant.

If you have a valid lease, the rules cannot be changed until it expires, unless it contains a clause specifically allowing the house rules to be amended. For month-to-month tenants, the rules can be changed with 30 days' written notice to the tenants.

Even if management can generally issue new rules now, the specific rule you describe here may violate fair housing law. The fair housing laws prohibit discrimination based on familial status, including rules that place an unfair burden on families by singling out children.

If management has a legitimate safety concern about playing on the front lawn, the rule forbidding play should apply to all tenants, not just children. As for the rule requiring adult supervision of children in the recreation room, it might be acceptable if narrowly limited to a reasonably young age, as opposed to all children, which could include older teenagers.

Eichner is director of Housing Counseling Programs for Project Sentinel, a mediation service based in Sunnyvale, Calif. To submit a question, go to http://www.housing.org.

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