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June 19, 2012 > Fair Housing is everyone's business

Fair Housing is everyone's business

Submitted By Angie Watson-Hajjem

It's Summer Time and the living is easy... Well when it comes to families with children living in rental housing or trying to find rental housing, sometimes it really isn't that easy. Our fair housing agency ECHO Housing contracts with the cities of Union City, Hayward, and Alameda County to provide investigative, counseling, mediation and education services to community. Often during the summer months, we see a spike in fair housing discrimination complaints, especially regarding children.

One local resident manager got so tired of children playing all throughout the day in her complex that she actually devised a house rule that all children had to be in by dusk. Now if she had made a house rule saying that ALL residents had be inside by dusk, that would not have been a violation of fair housing law. It would be a crazy rule and many residents would no doubt choose to live elsewhere, but it is not discriminatory. Discrimination happens when you treat people differently based on their protective class. Children are protective under both Federal and State fair housing laws. They should not be treated differently.

Sometimes property managers want to have different pool rules for children, for example saying the children can only use the pool during certain hours. Managers can have rules that say children under 14 must be with an adult if using the pool, but children can't be regulated to use the pool only during certain hours. If the pool is open for use from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at night, children are entitled to have access to the pool during those same hours, albeit with supervision if 14 or under.

Sometimes families with children run into managers who don't want to rent to them because of the children. This is a violation of fair housing laws. Families with children should be afforded the same opportunity to rent housing on the same basis as families without children. A manager cannot charge a higher rent or higher deposit because a family has children. Families with children also should not be "steered" to living in certain areas of the complex. For example, one local landlord had a policy of not renting to families with children in the front of the building; they could only rent apartments in the back. Another local owner refused to rent to a family that had two young sons on the top level of the apartment. The owner thought the children would disturb a single man who lived below. These are both illegal practices and both owners were sued for discrimination and had to pay damages to the complainants.

One of the services we offer is free counseling to property managers and landlords regarding fair housing laws. Often, housing providers get in trouble simply because they do not know the law. If people want more information about ECHO Housing and our services, contact us by calling (510) 581-9380 or visit our website at www.echofairhousing.org.

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