Why Kids Can’t Be Told to “Stay Off the Grass”

by Isaac Benmergui, Esq on December 13, 2013

Let’s take a look at the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), shall we? Many may already know what this is about, particularly one apartment complex in California known as Woodland Garden Apartments, straight out of Fremont. The FHA was in particular enforcement regarding an apparent lawsuit against the complex due to the reported prohibition of children playing around the grassy common areas. What does this have to do with the FHA?

Apparently a lot. The FHA enforces laws associated with housing and discrimination, specifically protecting the rights of the buyer, tenants and also prospective tenants. What’s interesting about this is the simple fact that the complex didn’t want their grassy areas ruined. Fair enough — but examine this closely. What about adults? What about tenants with no children? What about them?

The Justice Department filed this lawsuit against the apartment complex solely on the basis that this discriminates against families. That is, actually, the entire basis behind the FHA. It protects against discrimination under these categories:

  • Racereal estate
  • Color
  • Ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Handicap/Disability
  • And, Yes…. Familial Status

That means no apartment complex or realty company can say ‘no’ to a prospective tenant based on any of these categories. That would include, yes, having a family. Would Woodland’s policy be too restrictive? Very possibly. The Justice Department makes a pretty good case, as it were. Yet, there are arguments against this, stating that while children can’t play on these grassy grounds, it doesn’t mean they can’t live in the residency. We’ll see how this all plays out in the legal landscape.

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