FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Question: My landlord works nights and sleeps during the day. She says that my kids’ playing and riding their bikes out back interrupts her sleeping. What can I do? It’s warm outside, and she knew we had kids when we moved in.
Answer: Families with children are protected from discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. But landlords can set reasonable rules for safety or to prevent unacceptable disturbances to neighbors. Generally, it is not “reasonable” to say children can never play outside or to expect children to always be quiet. It may be a matter of degree. Perhaps you and your landlord could discuss a few key hours when the children would be kept inside, and you could work with the children to help them keep the noise level down when they are outside during the day.
Question: Our condominium board recently tried to pass an amendment to our residence documents to ban sexual offenders from living or moving into our complex, however the residents voted it down. Was the board legally allowed to propose such a change in the first place?
Answer: Fair housing laws do not prevent a landlord or a condo association from setting criteria for residency based on a person’s criminal record, including banning sexual offenders. An attorney can advise you about state laws governing condominiums. And a review of the Condo Association’s charter may indicate whether the Board has the authority to place restrictions on who can reside in an individual owner’s unit.
Question: One of my tenants says she’s disabled and needs an assigned parking space near the entrance to her building. Once I assign her a space, everybody else will want one. Do I have to designate a space for her?
Answer: If a disabled person requests a change in rules, policies or practices that allows that person to use and enjoy his/her home just like your other tenants, then you must make what is called a “reasonable accommodation.” Assigned parking spaces for people with mobility impairments are common accommodations. If the need for the accommodation is not obvious, you may ask for verification of the disability and the need.
Question: I have been unable to sell my 3-bedroom home, so I’m thinking of renting it out. I don’t want the place trashed. Can I limit the number of people living there or charge a higher security deposit if I rent to a family that has young children?
Answer: Owners can set reasonable occupancy limits. Two people per bedroom generally is considered reasonable. For a 3-bedroom house, that would be 6 people, whether adults or children. Charging higher security deposits or rent based on children in the household or the age of children would be illegal housing discrimination against families with children.
Question: I’m the listing agent for a nice house in an integrated neighborhood. A white woman at the Open House said she really liked the house, but her buyer’s agent told her it was a bad neighborhood and was not good for families. I’m furious, but what can I do?
Answer: The illegal practice of “steering” occurs when a real estate agent limits housing choices by discouraging home buyers based on the racial composition of a neighborhood. Both you and the homeowner could have a claim for damages if the buyer’s agent engaged in illegal steering. We suggest you contact HOME or a fair housing agency in your area to help gather evidence that the agent is steering and discuss enforcement options.
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