July 2009 Coach's Quiz
We have given you seven rules on how to avoid discrimination complaints based on familial status arising from your occupancy standards. Now let's look at how the rules might apply in the real world. Take the COACH's Quiz to see what you have learned.
INSTRUCTIONS: Each of the following questions has only one correct answer. On a separate piece of paper, write down the number of each question, followed by the answer you think is correct—for example, 1)b, 2)a, and so on.
And this month, there's an extra credit assignment: Judge for Yourself, a description of an actual court case. Test yourself on whether you think the community should be held liable, and then check the summary of the court's ruling to see how much you have learned.
COACH'S TIP: The correct answers (with explanations) follow the quiz. Good luck!
A community may not be found liable for housing discrimination if it limits occupancy to two people per bedroom. True or false?
You may never consider whether the household includes children or their ages in applying your occupancy standards. True or false?
You may not require a female prospect to rent a unit with a separate bedroom for her teenaged son. True or false?
EXTRA CREDIT: JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
In online listings on its Web site, a community included certain restrictions on the number of children permitted in the rental units, ranging from a two-child limit to a three-child limit in a three-bedroom unit.
A prospect, who was moving from another state, responded to a listing for a three-bedroom unit that stated “two children maximum.” Allegedly, the prospect misrepresented the number of children in her family, and the leasing agent accepted her deposit. Before she moved in, the listing agent learned that the prospect and her husband had five children. The agent told the prospect that he couldn't rent to her and returned her deposit with the notation, “has 5 kids—limit is 3.”
The prospect contacted a fair housing agency, which “confirmed” the ad and conducted a telephone test in which the listing agent told the tester that he couldn't rent her the unit because she had too many children.
The prospect sued the agent for housing discrimination based on familial status through its advertising and refusal to rent. As a defense, the agent argued that its refusal to rent was based on the local ordinance, which prohibited the number of occupants the prospect wanted to live in the unit. The local ordinance limited occupancy based on a minimum square footage per occupant in the unit as well as in rooms occupied for sleeping purposes; it also included a minimum square footage per sleeping area for occupants under 12 years of age.
When both parties asked the court for judgment without a trial, how did the court decide?
Coach's Answers & Explanations
Correct answer: b
Reason: Rules #1 and #2 apply here:
Rule #1: Comply with State and Local Occupancy Standards
Rule #2: Develop Written Occupancy Policy
The two-person per 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. In addition, HUD says that the general rule may not be reasonable in a particular case based on the size or configuration of the unit, size of the bedrooms, or other factors.
Correct answer: b
Reason: Rule #2 applies here:
Rule #2: Develop Written Occupancy Policy
Unless otherwise provided under state or local law, communities must base occupancy standards on the number of occupants—not children. However, according to federal guidelines, a community may consider the age of the children to determine whether to make an exception to the two-person/bedroom standards. For example, HUD says that it may not be reasonable to deny a one-bedroom unit to a couple with an infant when both the bedroom and unit are large. Furthermore, in some states such as Texas, the age of a child may be considered because the occupancy standard is two persons plus one under six months per bedroom.
Correct answer: a
Reason: Rule #5 applies here:
Rule #5: Don't Intrude on Private Family Decisions
In applying your occupancy standards, you may not require adults and children of either gender to have separate bedrooms, even if you don't think it's appropriate.
ANSWER: JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
In a case involving a woman who wanted to move back to New Orleans after living in Arizona in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the federal court ruled that the community's advertising and refusal to rent violated the FHA based on familial status.
The court said that the online listing was illegal because it expressed a limitation on the number of children, and not the number of people, who could occupy the three-bedroom unit. The agent rejected the prospect because she had “too many children,” evidenced by his own written notation on the refunded deposit check, which in and of itself stated a limitation, namely “has 5 kids—limit is 3.”
The court rejected the community's attempt to rely on the local ordinance. The FHA recognizes the validity of reasonable local ordinances related to the maximum number of occupants permitted to occupy a dwelling. However, the undisputed facts showed that the community did not have a limit on the number of occupants, but rather a discriminatory limit on the number of children who could live in its units.
Both the advertisements and the refusal to rent were illegal under the FHA. It didn't matter that the prospect may have misrepresented the number of children she sought to have living with her. The agent rejected her rental application because she intended to have more than three children living with her, not because she allegedly misinformed the agent of such intent [Hunter v. Williamson, 2008].
See The Lesson For This Quiz
|Preventing Discrimination Claims Based On Occupancy Standards|