Unless you’re looking to live in a senior community or housing facility, the Fair Housing Act protects renters from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, or sex. It also says that landlords cannot discriminate based on familial status, which is why the U.S. government is now suing a Seattle property owner accused of refusing to rent to family with children.
According to the lawsuit [PDF] filed by the Department of Justice, a woman and her husband decided to move from Seattle in March 2014, where they owned a home, to Edmonds, WA, to cut down on commuting time.
The woman says she spotted a “For Rent” sign in a window and called the number on the sign, and left a voicemail saying she was interested in renting the unit for herself, her husband, and their one-year-old son, but the landlord allegedly told them her apartment buildings were “adult only” and thus, not available to the family.
The woman insisted that unless there was a senior community exemption, it’s illegal under the FHA to discriminate against children. However, the defendant allegedly responded that she has “a child policy” to keep kids out, “which is the right of the landlord.”
The renters filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and a subsequent investigation found illegal discriminatory housing practices.
The DOJ has charged the landlord and her three LLCs with violating the FHA, and seeks an injunction to keep her from excluding families, as well as damages for the family and anyone else injured by the defendants’ allegedly discriminatory practices, and a civil penalty.
“Equal access to housing is essential for all Americans, including families with young children,” U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes of the Western District of Washington said in a statement. “Particularly in our tight housing market, landlords must follow the law and make units available without discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or familial status.”