Fair Housing FAQs

Are there Laws that Protect Tenants from Discrimination by their Landlord?

Yes, there are laws that protect tenants from discrimination by their landlords. The federal government, along with states and even some counties, have passed laws that protect tenants from housing discrimination. Unfortunately, most lawyers have no clue that such laws exist or what they protect tenants from. Fortunately, the Law Offices of Stuart E. Fagan has been dealing with these laws for over two decades. We can tell you what laws protect you from housing discrimination.

How Do You Know if You Have Experienced Housing Discrimination?

Most of the times, you won’t know. But something will stir in your gut and tell you that what has happened to you was not right. So what are some clues that might indicate that you have been discriminated against? Let’s look at a few scenarios: Obviously, if you are looking for a new place to call home and the landlord refuses to rent to you because of: 1) your religion; 2) the fact that you have children (under 18 years of age); 3) your race; 4) your color; 5) your national origin; 6) you are pregnant; 7) your sex; or 8) you are disabled, then it is likely that you may have experienced housing discrimination. It is rare that discrimination is this obvious, but it does still happen from time to time.

Sorry, but we already rented that apartment.” But what are some less obvious clues? Let’s look at the application process. First, if you call the apartment complex about a vacant apartment and you are told that it is available, but when show up they claim that the apartment is no longer available, then you may want to have a friend call to see if they get a different response. Sadly, this happens to minorities all too often. Sometimes, the apartment has been rented out or the manager on duty is simply mistaken. Other times, the manager doesn’t like who walked in the door, so the manager doesn’t want to rent to that person. The manager’s actions may or may not be illegal. The law does not require a landlord to rent to anybody who applies, but the landlord cannot unlawfully discriminate against a potential tenant who is otherwise qualified.

Harassing children. If the apartment manager has been harassing your children for little things, such as writing on the sidewalk with sidewalk chalk or being outside talking to friends, then your family (including your children) may be experiencing housing discrimination. Watching how the manager treats children says a lot about whether children and their families are being discriminated against. If the manager is kind to adults, but always after children, then it may be a clue that the manager is treating families with children differently. That’s illegal.

Retaliation. Third, if you are being evicted from your apartment because you spoke up against the manager, then you may be experiencing housing discrimination. Retaliation is one of the ways that discrimination is demonstrated. At times a manager will permit a single adult to play loud music, but will write up a family whose child was outside playing and laughing. Are there double standards? If so, then this can be a clue that discrimination is happening.

Application Process. Sometimes discrimination takes place before you even become a tenant. I’ve had cases where African American applicants were forced to provide copies of their driver’s licenses, social security cards, and their pay stubs, but no other applicants were required to provide any such information. That’s differential treatment, and it’s illegal.

If you believe that you or your family may have experienced housing discrimination, then, please, call us. There is NO CHARGE for the call. Within a few minutes, we will be able to tell you if we believe that you have experienced housing discrimination. If you do, then we can talk to you about taking your case on a contingency fee basis. We want to help you.

Do Families with Small Children Have to Live in Downstairs Apartments?

No. Families with small children are free to live anywhere in an apartment complex. If the landlord is telling you otherwise, then the landlord is breaking the law.

Can a Landlord Forbid Children from Skateboarding, Riding Bikes, and Playing at Our Complex?

Many landlords attempt to limit the activity of children by simply forbidding playing at the complex altogether. These types of rules may be illegal. What courts look at with these types of rules is the impact of the rule. If the rule has a significantly disproportionate impact upon one protected group of individuals (for example, children) from other groups of people, then the rule will be unlawful. For example, if there is a rule that forbids all tenants from riding bicycles, skateboarding, skating, and playing with balls, then that rule may have a significantly disproportionate impact upon children because they are the ones who ride bikes, skateboard, skate, and play with balls. Usually when you see this type of rule, it is usually the tip of the iceberg.

Do We have to Live in a Certain Part of the Apartment Complex if We have Kids?

No. It is illegal for an apartment complex to force a family with children to live in a certain portion of the apartment complex or in a downstairs apartment. Families with children can live in upstairs apartments or downstairs apartments, and they can live in any apartment that they can afford. If there are restrictions placed on where families with children can live, then they are illegal. Plain and simple.

My Landlord says My Children are Being Too Loud and if They Don’t Quiet Down, then We are Going to be Evicted; what can I do?

There is nothing worse for a parent than to be told by a manager that his or her children are being too loud and that if the children don’t quiet down, then they are going to be evicted. This is a common complaint that I hear. Sometimes adult tenants seem to be allowed to have a concert in their apartments and the management does nothing about. But heaven forbid if a child makes a peep.

First, let’s clear one thing up: the law does not permit families with children to be extra loud. But how loud is too loud? I’ve represented families whose children weigh no more than 40 pounds who were told that their children were stomping on the floor, etc., and being too loud. Were those complaints legitimate? Probably not, but my clients were told they would have to move to a downstairs apartment or be evicted because of the noise.

Apartment complexes, quite frankly, have a tendency to draw people who believe that the world revolves around them and that everyone in the complex should be as quiet as a church mouse. These tenants are known to complain to anyone and everyone who will listen. Hence once an apartment manager responds to one of their complaints, then it’s kind of like what happens when you feed one seagull at the beach. It doesn’t take long, and you’ve got a flock of seagulls squawking at your feet. So, too, with complainers. They will complain and complain and complain if a manager responds to one of their complaints. And then they let the other complainers in the apartment complex know that squawking works, so they start squawking, too. Before you know it, you’ve got a chorus of complainers bombarding the managers’ office with “anonymous” complaints. Sometimes the easiest way for a manager to get rid of such complainers is to say, “I sent them a notice about the noise complaints.” But it becomes a problem when the manager is more concerned about appeasing the complainers than being frank with them. Put simply, there is such a thing as making a “reasonable” amount of noise. If you think that your children have not been too loud, then respond in writing to the manager’s complaints indicating such. You and your family have just as much entitlement to enjoy your apartment as do the squawking complainers. Don’t let them destroy your lives. You and your family need a home just as much as anyone.

The Law Offices of Stuart E. Fagan (858) 247-2901 handles fair housing cases up and down the great State of California, so whether you’ve got a problem in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Fresno, San Jose, or San Diego, we are always ready to help.

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

— Nelson Mandela

Can My Landlord Forbid My Children From Swimming in the Apartment Complex’s Pool?

Kyoko Iwasaki was only 14 years old when she won the gold medal in the 200 meter breast stroke at the Barcelona Olympics. Would it make sense for an apartment complex to forbid her from swimming in the apartment’s pool if her mom or dad were not around to supervise her? Of course not!

As a general rule, a landlord cannot forbid all children from using the swimming pool at the apartment complex. The question that courts often face is: “How old does a child have to be before he or she can swim alone?” Courts answer this question differently, but most courts realize that it is the child’s parents’ responsibility to watch out for their children, not some apartment complex. Although many courts do not have a problem with reasonable restrictions on how old a child has to be to swim unsupervised, courts frown upon outright bans, such as “No children under 14 years of age may swim without adult supervision.” Because the real problem with such rules is that they fail to address the real problem: can a child swim? If a child can swim, then there is no really no reason to forbid a child from swimming without adult supervision. Some may question whether children have enough sense to not do something stupid, even if they know how to swim, but that can be remedied by the apartment complex having a pool monitor present. In the end, if the apartment complex’s rules seem reasonable, then obey them. If the apartment complex’s rules seem extremely unfair, then maybe it is time for you to do something about it.

Can You Help Me if I’m being Discriminated Against Because of My Religion?

Absolutely. Freedom of Religion is not only a right guaranteed under the United States Constitution, but it is also protected under the Fair Housing Act and state fair housing laws. Put simply, if your landlord is harassing you because of your religion, then it is illegal.