Fair Housing and Children – Keeping Your Rules Compliant

Could your community’s rules and policies be considered discriminatory, especially where children are concerned? How can you ensure that your rules are fair housing compliant? Leslie Tucker returns to share her insights and give you clear guidelines to follow when creating or reviewing your community policies and rules.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Several different children playing safely because their communities rules are fair housing compliant.

As we know, one of the protected categories included in the Fair Housing Act is Familial Status, which prohibits any discrimination against any applicant or resident with children under the age of eighteen. What is protected is more than the apparent outright discrimination or steering; things like how community rules and policies are written and enforced come into play, especially regarding children.

When it comes to rules that apply to children, things can get tricky. You cannot have blanket rules restricting children’s use or access to parts of your property. You can have rules that outline the need for supervision as long as they are not unreasonable and have a legitimate reason, i.e., safety.

Understanding what is and isn’t acceptable when creating community rules is crucial to avoid any appearance of discrimination. In this article, we will review the most common rules you see in multi-family communities and discuss whether they are reasonable or not.

Persons under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult when using the pool.

This rule is probably one of the most common ones that we see in communities. Obviously, there are safety concerns when it comes to children and pools. However, a point of caution would be to ensure that the ages chosen are not too restrictive or have a policy of a case-by-case basis for exemption. For example, what if children are being supervised by a babysitter that is an excellent swimmer but is only 16? Caution is needed to ensure everyone’s safety of course, but within reasonable limits.

Due to safety concerns, children are prohibited to run and play outside within the complex gates.

You cannot completely restrict the use of common areas. Here we see a rule that would definitely be flagged for being over-restrictive. Suppose children are causing a problem such as damaging property or affecting other residents’ use of these areas. In that case, you can let the parents know that these rules are being broken and will result in a lease violation.

Skateboarding is prohibited on community property.

As it is written, this rule would be considered acceptable. The reason for this is that it doesn’t single children out. It clearly states that ALL skateboarding is prohibited, meaning it applies to everyone regardless of age.

Nobody under the age of 18 is allowed in the Business Center without adult supervision.

Here we see another common supervision rule. Of course, you want to protect your property’s expensive equipment. However, since most high school students use technology daily, restricting this area to 18 and over could be considered an unreasonable restriction.

Children under the age of 14 are prohibited in the gym.

This rule could definitely land you with a charge of discrimination. It completely blocks access to children under the age of 14, which violates their protected category status. A better practice would be to institute reasonable supervision rules.

Pool hours: Adults 18+ – 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Children under 18 – 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Again, this rule completely blocks children’s access between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., which could be considered discriminatory or too restrictive. Once more, a better practice would be to focus on good supervision rules.

Quiet hours (11 p.m. – 7 p.m.) will be enforced. No excessive noise, fireworks, music, or any other disturbances will be allowed.

Many communities have “quiet hours” rules which are okay because they do not list children specifically. The problem that could come into play is if a community tried to enact a curfew. That clearly would not work with adults, so it would then only apply to children, which again would be discriminatory. The way this rule is written is neutral enough to include everyone, and as long as it’s enforced the same way, it would be considered reasonable.

No Kids? – Final Takeaway

The best advice to follow when reviewing or creating your community rules and policies is to ask yourself if the language used limits the access or use specifically by children and revise it accordingly. Also, when it comes to creating your supervision rules, be sure that if they are ever questioned, you can clearly explain why they were instituted and what the specific purpose is. Of course, if you are still unsure, consulting a fair housing attorney is always a good idea!

Jonathan (00:12): Hello everyone. And welcome to the Fair Housing Insiders. I'm your host, Jonathan Saar and joining me today is Leslie Tucker from Williams, Edelstein and Tucker. So we're looking forward to hearing her comments and thoughts on rules directed at kids. So just a couple of housekeeping items keep in mind. We have a newsletter we'd love for you to sign up for that. Please sign up for our YouTube channel. In our newsletter, we always have extra tidbits related to fair housing, and we really appreciate your feedback on our YouTube channel. When you submit a question on our YouTube channel, you could have a chance to win in a future contest when we go through our community questions. So keep those things in mind and follow us on Instagram at Fair Housing Institute. So our subject today, Leslie's gonna help us with our fair housing focus on rules directed at kids. So let's kick it to you. Leslie, why should caution be used when using and creating community rules?

Leslie (01:17): So when it comes to creating different policies and enforcing your policies about children that are focused on children, the reason you should use caution is that, you know, most people out there know that the fair housing act includes a protected category for familial status. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of familial status, which is, you know, against applicants or residents that have children under the age of 18. Those are kind of who is protected. But it's not just, you know, you know, blatant discrimination or, you know, denying an application or steering included in, you know, what is considered illegal discrimination under the law is creating and enforcing overly restrictive rules towards children on the property. That is, that is included in what is illegal under the law. So when creating rules, your house rules, your community policies, that needs to be kept in the back of your mind to make sure that any policies that you are adding or creating don't overly restrict, children's use of your property and your amenities.

Jonathan (02:50): All right. Very good. Thank you for that explanation. So why are rules like especially tricky when it comes to to children?

Leslie (03:02): Well, it's tricky because, you know, when you own or operate a property if you see an issue that's popping up amongst your residents, you typically can create to correct that issue. If you see, you know, different rules being broken, you can enforce your policies or create new ones to stop certain things from happening. The tricky thing about rules, you know, towards children is you really can't have rules, blanket rules that restrict children's use or access of the property. And that's even if children are doing things engaging in activity that is problematic. If kids are, you know, pulling up the flowers from your grounds, yeah, you really can't just say, well, you know, kids can't be around the common areas of the property. You can't restrict kids access to really any common areas within the community.

even though that might solve your problem with, you know, property damage or whatever the issue may be you aren't really allowed to have rules that are 100% geared towards all kids on the property. So that's why it's a little bit tricky. You can have rules, you know, you can have certain rules like rules regarding supervision of children in certain areas. As long as you know, there is a legitimate reason for it, safety reasons for example but you know, restricting access to kids in general is considered discrimination.

Jonathan (05:03): Got it, got it. That's very helpful. So why don't we just take a minute then, and, and look at some examples of rules, common ones that we've seen at FHI and just in general in the community, we'll get your comments on those, you know, cause there's, there's a lot of different ones that some may feel aren't discriminatory, but, but they could be, you know, so let's, let's go through a few examples and we'll get your comments on them. So here's our, our first rule persons under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult when using the pool. What do you think of that one?

Leslie (05:43): I actually don't see a huge problem with this rule. This is a really common you know, supervision rule that I see at a lot of multi-family properties. This is a supervision rule and a lot of your amenities this may be justified in at the pool. Obviously there's a safety concern for kids that are unsupervised. And so requiring them to be supervised by an adult when they are using the pool, I think is very reasonable. The age, you know, is up for discussion. There's really no specific age restriction that, you know, HUDs or the agencies specify that, you know, this is per se reasonable. I've seen between 12 and 14 that are, you know, probably reasonable age restrictions. I think anything older than that would be viewed as unreasonable and unreasonable restriction you know, regarding pool use.

I there's been some talk about, you know, the fact that, well, someone may not be an adult. Someone may not be, you know, 18 or older, but may still be you know, an appropriate source of supervision for kids. For example, if you know, if a resident and trusts their children with a babysitter that might be 16, for example they wouldn't pass this role. They wouldn't be allowed to use the pool under this specific rule because the 16 year old is obviously not an adult. I think it's a consideration that you may make an exception for certain cases on a case by case basis. Of course, if there is an entrusted guardian that is a strong swimmer that the, you know, the resident has entrusted to look after their kids, that could be a possibility, an exception to a rule like this, something just to consider. And if you do want to add something like that to your role, it probably should, you know, added, be added onto a rule like this that says, you know, exceptions may be made on a case by case basis, something like that. And you could evaluate requests like that just to make sure that the safety is still being considered, but you're not overly restricting, you know, the, the kids' use of the pool.

Jonathan (08:25): Okay. Very good. Appreciate the detailed explanation. That's an area that I'm, I know many of our viewers had a question about, so appreciate you, you diving into that one. Oh, ah, I know bad joke. I am a dad, so I still get to once in a while. All right. So our next one due to safety concerns children are prohibited to run and play outside within the complex gates. So what do you think of that role?

Leslie (08:57): Well, I think this role would certainly be flagged as overly restrictive, you know, regardless of what you may believe as a parent yourself, as someone who's running the property you really can't restrict or prohibit children from, you know, running or playing or just being in common areas in your community. You may believe that certain parents are being negligent or not properly supervising their kids. But again, unless there is a legitimate rule policy that is being broken you really have nothing to enforce and this can't be one of your rules restricting children's use of the common areas. Now, if they start doing things within your common areas that are damaging the property that are interfering with, you know, other resident's use of the property, that's when you can insert yourself and, and say, Hey, you know, this is not acceptable. You know, here's what rule is being broken by your child. And, you know, if it happens again, we're gonna have to issue a lease violation notice, but just restricting all children from using it is, is not gonna be permitted.

Jonathan (10:17): Got it. Yeah. That makes sense. Very good. All right. Our next one skateboarding is permitted. Excuse me. Skateboarding is prohibited on community property.

Leslie (10:27): Yeah. So I think this rule is absolutely fine. And I see it all the time in my client's leases and house rules. And that's because it is not limiting, just children's use of skateboarding. Right. It's really anyone, if an adult is skateboarding, that's a lease violation under, you know, this specific rule. So because it's encompassing of everyone, all residents and occupants and guests, this rule's okay.

Jonathan (10:57): Perfect. Thank you. All right. Our next one, nobody under the age of 18 allowed in the business center without adult supervision,

Leslie (11:08): This is another obviously supervision rule, which again, generally, is okay. However, I think the issue with this rule is that the age restriction here I think is probably unreasonable. Anyone under the age of 18, so we're talking 15, 16, 17 year olds, you know, they're in high school, they use computers every day of their life. Right. and they can't use the business center because they don't have a parent or guardian or someone that's over the age of 18. That's probably gonna be viewed as unreasonable restriction. You know, I think you can, and probably should have a supervision rule regarding your business center, if you have one in the community, because obviously the equipment in there is expensive and it needs to be cared for properly and used properly. So not all kids should be allowed to just run and use that, that space. But I think the age should be lowered to something probably more reasonable. Like I said, 12, 13, something like that.

Jonathan (12:13): Okay. Very good. So our next area on the community, in the gym children under the age of 14 prohibited in the gym, what do you think of that rule?

Leslie (12:25): So this is kind of another little nuance of you know, restricting the use of an amenity. I would say this rule is not okay because it is entirely prohibiting anyone under the age of 14 from even using or being inside that amenity mm-hmm . And like I said, blanket restrictions for any kid is, is really not okay. So while you can have a supervision rule for your gym and probably should for safety reasons and for it to protect your property you know, I would switch this rule from saying children under the age of 14 are prohibited in the gym. I would switch it to, you know, must be supervised or accompanied by an adult. You know, I think, like I said, the age of 14 is maybe up for debate a little bit, but never have a prohibition have a, you know, required to be supervised by is always, you know, a better practice.

Jonathan (13:32): Yeah, very good. I think our audience is really starting to see the overall pattern and, and the way rules are, are worded in what you're including in, in those particular statements. So appreciate that that explanation on that rule. So let's, let's dive back into the pool pool hours, adults, 18 plus 10 to nine, then a different rule for children, children under 18, 10 to six. Can you do that? Can you have two separate timeframes for one for adults and one for children?

Leslie (14:09): Again, because this rule is 100% directed at kids' use of this amenity, it's cutting off completely the hours, you know, from between six and nine, there's no supervision rule there's there's no there's really no ability for kids to use that pool under any circumstances between those hours under this rule, that's probably gonna be seen as overly overly restrictive. Mm-Hmm again, have you can have supervision rules you know, if you have a lifeguard on duty, let's say you can, can, you know, if there's no lifeguard on duty, you know, children under the age of, you know, 13 need to be supervised by an adult, that's probably okay. But you know, saying that these are kind of adult hours is restricting, children's use of that amenity, so.

Jonathan (15:09): Perfect. Okay. And then our last rule that we wanted to consider, so quiet hours, so 11 till seven, 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM will be enforced. No excessive noise, fireworks, music or any other disturbances will be allowed. Is that an acceptable rule or policy?

Leslie (15:30): Yeah, I think it is a, a lot of communities have what they call quiet hours and that's okay. And the reason it's okay is because it doesn't talk about kids here. There's no mention of children. There's no mention of kind of anything that is that, you know, specifically implies that this is only applicable to children, noise, fireworks music, that's applicable to anyone, all, all residents of all ages. So as long as, you know, a, a policy is worded like this very neutral and it's enforced towards everyone and not just children, I think this is absolutely okay. Along these same lines, I've gotten many questions about enforcing curfews in communities for kind of this same reason. Usually curfews are enforced honestly because people are worried about kids making noise. After certain hours curfews have been found in general to be an overly restrictive policy towards children. So I would not recommend instituting one. And really, you know, let's be real if you institute a curfew, are you really telling the adults that live in your community, that they can't, you know, leave their units after a certain time? Probably not. , you're probably not gonna be doing that to restrict adults use, you're doing it to restrict children's use, which is just, which is, you know, as we've been talking about not permitted, so, right,

Jonathan (17:08): Right, right. Very good. Yeah. That would make it really difficult for like night shift workers or something to be able to actually go to work if you had that kind of a, a curfew. So. Okay. Very good. So nice explanation. Thank you so much Leslie, for, for all of those. So to kind of wrap it up then, so we got our audience, they're thinking of their, their rules. What, what do they have in place right now? Probably gonna go back to the drawing board, maybe on some of them in general, what would be your advice to communities when they're working on their policies or trying to create rules when it relates to children?

Leslie (17:49): So I think the best advice I could give when creating these rules is going back and looking at the language that you use and, you know, making sure that you don't have any rules that are about children that mention children that keep children from doing any specific thing or activity or accessing any particular area on your property. I think that's really important when going back and looking at your community rules for those rules that do involve supervision of children. I think the best advice is if that policy were ever challenged were ever the subject of a complaint by a tenant and you were required to justify it. Could you, what would you say to justify that particular policy? You know, why did you institute it? What is its purpose? I think being able to do that legitimately is important because these rules very well might be challenged and you may be called upon to explain, well, we have this role in place because you know, gym equipment is, is dangerous and heavy. And we wanna make sure that, you know, kids under a certain age are protected because they may not know how to use it properly or, you know, whatever it may be make sure that you can legitimately give an answer to justify, you know, the policies that you have in place.

Jonathan (19:37): Very good. I love that advice. That's awesome. You know, just put yourself in that worst case scenario and having to make a response of some kind, if there's an allegation. So. Perfect. Perfect. Thank you so much. All right. Well, that's been, this has been an awesome episode and as we traditionally do, we love to dive into our fast five questions. However, for this episode and for future ones, we have adjusted a bit because nobody has been able to win the one quadrillion dollars that they get for getting the fast five questions in under 60 seconds. So Michael has graciously allowed us to do this, this race in 90 seconds or less. So we're gonna give you your fast five questions and let's see, Leslie, if you can win the fake one quintillion wonderful fair housing dollars for, for getting it under 90 seconds. Okay. Are you ready?

Leslie (20:36): Thanks for the extra time. Yes, I'm ready.

Jonathan (20:38): Okay. all right. Let me hit the watch here. Can you have community rules that apply only to children?

Leslie (20:47): No, you cannot. Only if they involve supervision of children.

Jonathan (20:52): Can you require children to be supervised in amenity spaces?

Leslie (20:57): You can. Yes. As long as there is a reasonable age restriction involved.

Jonathan (21:03): Are you permitted to see a tenant for violations committed by their child?

Leslie (21:08): Absolutely. And you should as long as those citations are specific to certain families and not to all families.

Jonathan (21:19): Can you ban a child from using and amenity if they are misusing it?

Leslie (21:25): Yeah, I think you can, after a certain amount of warnings or citations, I think you can ban a, child or family from using an amenity. I would recommend probably on a temporary basis.

Jonathan (21:40): Is it permissible to have a curfew for children due to noise complaints from residents?

Leslie (21:46): No, curfews are not gonna be acceptable, but I, you know, you can use lease violations and citations to try to cure that problem.

Jonathan (21:55): Very good. All right. Well, you have won the imaginary one gazillion dollars, you know, streamers and fireworks and everything.

Leslie (22:04): Excellent. My first try.

Jonathan (22:06): Yeah, that's awesome. One minute and 15 seconds for five questions and so well done. Congratulations.

Leslie (22:12): Thank you. Thanks, Jonathan.

Jonathan (22:14): Yeah. Thank you so much. This has been a great episode. I love the fact that we got really, really detailed in this particular fair housing topic when it comes to familial status and talking about children. So we appreciate having you on the show, Leslie Tucker from Williams, Edelstein and Tucker. So thank you so much. And thank you to everyone who has tuned into our show. Please share this with your network. We appreciate the feedback we get from you that you're sharing this as part of your ongoing training. So give us a thumbs up. If you have any questions or have any topics that you would like to be discussed please feel free to direct message us and we'll consider those. So until next time, thank you for tuning into the show. Take care, everyone.

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