We’re shining a light on a case that alleges discrimination against a couple who moved into a rental property and later decided to expand their family. This case highlights the need for clear occupancy policies as well as an understanding of the laws governing those policies.
This case unfolds in California, where a couple moved into a one-bedroom unit at a conventional property. The wife was pregnant when they initially moved in, but the landlord was unaware of this fact. However, when the couple became pregnant for the second time, the landlord allegedly confronted them. The complaint alleges that the landlord claimed the unit was intended for a husband, wife, and one baby, not for a family of four.
Allegations of Harassment
The couple claims that the landlord repeatedly pressured them to move into larger units – two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments – which were naturally more expensive than their current one-bedroom unit. According to the complaint, the landlord went to great lengths to convince them that their unit was unsuitable for a family of four. This included alleging that their children were causing excessive wear and tear on the unit and even calling them on the day their child was born to ask them to vacate the unit.
Pressured To Move Results In Complaint
Despite the landlord never formally terminating their lease due to occupancy issues, the couple eventually moved out, citing the immense pressure they had received. They filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which found that a violation likely occurred. Subsequently, this lawsuit was filed.
Understanding Occupancy Policies
Landlords are allowed to enforce reasonable occupancy policies. While it wasn’t clear if the landlord in this case had a specific policy in place, it’s well within a landlord’s rights to have and enforce such policies.
However, there are some important factors to consider when creating an occupancy policy, These include the ages of the occupants, the layout and size of the unit, and local occupancy codes. HUD has made it clear that the strict, traditional “two persons per bedroom” standard is no longer considered reasonable and may be viewed as discrimination based on familial status.
Along with that, if a landlord becomes aware that a tenant is pregnant and that this would eventually lead to the household exceeding the occupancy limit, they should never require the tenant to move based on this anticipation. It’s only reasonable to require a move once the child reaches a certain age and officially exceeds the occupancy policy.
Even if the plaintiffs, in this case, did exceed an established occupancy policy at the property, the alleged comments made by the landlord were a primary argument supporting the claim for familial status discrimination. Even if a landlord doesn’t force a household to vacate their apartment, comments that cause a tenant to feel unwelcome or in fear of losing their housing can be illegal.
In conclusion, understanding fair housing laws, especially those related to familial status, is crucial for property managers and landlords. This case highlights the importance of having reasonable occupancy policies in place and treating all tenants equally, regardless of their family size.