Time for a quick refresher. Unless a community qualifies as designated housing for older persons, a housing provider may not discriminate based on familial status. "Familial status” is one of the protected classes contained in the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Under the law, familial status is any household with one or more children under 18 including:

  • Pregnant women;
  • Women who may become pregnant;
  • Foster children;
  • Adopted children;
  • Grandparents raising their grandchildren;
  • Children who share time between parents' homes and only live there part-time;
  • A legal custodian/guardian; or
  • Anyone securing legal custody of a child under 18

Under the FHA, it is unlawful to treat families with children under the age of 18 differently in housing transactions. This includes a prohibition on advertising – such as “Adults Only” signs – or a policy of rejecting families with children or treating families with children differently (including segregating families with children to certain areas of a community or floors in a building).

There is an exemption in the law regarding familial status. It concerns housing which is designated for older persons. The exclusion is defined as a community in which:

  • 100% of the units are occupied by those 62 or older, or
  • 80% or more of units are occupied by at least one person who is 55 or older,
  • and the community adheres to a policy that demonstrates an intent to house older persons
  • and the community complies with rules established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development for verification of occupancy

What this means is that most apartment communities must ensure that families with children are not discriminated against.