In 1988, the Fair Housing Act was amended to add “familial status” as a protected group.
If you are denied an opportunity to buy or rent a home or apartment—or given false information by a housing provider—because of your familial status, you are a victim of illegal housing discrimination. It is also illegal for landlords or other housing providers to treat in-place residents differently because of their familial status.
In fair housing law, “familial status” has a specific and limited meaning: the presence of children under the age of 18 in a household.
Examples & Warning Signs of Familial Status Discrimination
- Refusing to rent to families with children.
- Charging a higher security deposit to families with children even if the family has a good rental history.
- Overly restrictive occupancy limits. In California, the occupancy guideline is two people per bedroom, plus one additional person (i.e., 5 people in a 2-bedroom unit).
- Steering families with children to downstairs units or to certain buildings or areas in a development.
- Restrictions on children’s outdoor recreation activities or use of common areas, including “adults only” pools or pool hours.
- Interference with a resident’s right to operate a licensed in-home daycare facility or to have foster children.
- Increasing rent (called a “rent surcharge”) because a resident brings a child into the household.
If you believe you denied a housing opportunity or treated unfairly because of your familial status, contact the GBLA Fair Housing Law Project.
FHLP Cases Involving Familial Status Discrimination
- A Bakersfield condominium owner was threatened with eviction after her young grandchild began living with her in violation of the homeowners’ association’s rules. While Senior Housing developments can restrict children, our client’s development was not one of them, meaning that the association had been following rules that were outlawed more than 25 years ago. FHLP contacted the association and demanded a withdrawal of the eviction threat and a change in the association’s rules and policies restricting children—unless or until the association takes steps to become a senior housing development. The association agreed to withdraw its eviction threat and comply with fair housing laws relating to familial status.
- A Bakersfield area mobile home park posted signs and rules for “adults only” swim times at its community pool. FHLP filed a housing discrimination complaint on behalf of a family affected by this discriminatory rule, and the complaint was settled after the park changed its rules to allow equal pool access to all residents, regardless of age, provided fair housing training to management personnel, and compensated the family for their loss of use of the pool.
- Homeowners in a Kern County mobile home park were threatened with eviction because they brought foster children into their home. FHLP assisted the family in filing a housing discrimination complaint after the park owners refused to withdraw the eviction threat. DFEH investigated the complaint, found evidence of illegal housing discrimination, and filed a lawsuit against the park owners. FHLP served as the mobile home owners’ legal counsel and helped the parties negotiate a settlement that include financial compensation, fair housing training for the park’s owners and management, and a commitment to comply with fair housing laws in the future.
- The lease agreement at a Rosamond apartment complex called for a $100.00 per month rent surcharge for any person who was added to the household during the lease. After a young couple had their first child, management informed the couple that they had to pay the surcharge beginning on the date of the child’s birth. Lease terms like these are not illegal when they are applied to adults, but it is illegal to apply a rent surcharge when a minor child is added to the household. FHLP contacted the landlord to explain fair housing laws and demand a refund for the months in which the couple was improperly burdened with the surcharge. The landlord responded by reversing the rent surcharge and refunded the couple’s surcharge payments in the form of a rent credit in the following month.