COACH's Pop Quiz!

Q: A community may not be found liable for housing discrimination for applying occupancy standards limiting all units to two people per bedroom. True or false?


A: False. HUD’s two-person/bedroom standard is only a general guideline to determine whether a community’s occupancy standards are reasonable under federal fair housing law. Communities may have to allow more than two people per bedroom based on applicable state or local occupancy standards, the size or configuration of the unit, and other factors. According to the guidelines, an occupancy policy limiting the number of children per unit is less likely to be reasonable than one that limits the number of people per unit.

Example: In September 2019, HUD charged the owners of a Georgia apartment building with violating fair housing law by refusing to rent to, imposing different rental terms and conditions on, and making discriminatory statements about families with children. In their HUD complaints, fair housing advocates and the mother of two minor children alleged that the owners applied a policy limiting the number of children that could reside in their apartments. Allegedly, the owners’ business voicemail recording announced the policy to persons who phoned looking for housing. Allegedly, the policy allowed only one child in a two-bedroom unit and two children in a three-bedroom unit.

“The Fair Housing Act generally prohibits landlords from limiting housing to families with a certain number of children. HUD is committed to enforcing the Act to ensure that families with children are given equal housing opportunities,” Paul Compton, HUD’s General Counsel, said in a statement.

In the May 2020 lesson, Fair Housing Coach looks at fair housing problems that can arise when dealing with families with children. Fair housing law bans discrimination against families with children, but there’s more to it than that. You could get into fair housing trouble from the way that you advertise your property, show units, apply occupancy standards, and enforce community rules.

The May 2020 lesson, “10 Dos & Don’ts for Dealing with Families with Children,” is available to subscribers here.