HUD Announces $3M Settlement in Family Discrimination Complaint

HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) recently announced a $3 million settlement regarding a complaint about housing discrimination against families with children. The complaint was brought against a California property management company and more than 30 apartment complex owners. It alleged the owners discriminated against families with children at more than 48 apartment complexes throughout the San Francisco Bay Area by prohibiting any outdoor play activities and requiring parents to supervise children under the age of 14 in all common areas.

The context: Under the Fair Housing Act and substantially equivalent California laws like the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the Unruh Civil Rights Act, it is unlawful for housing providers to discriminate because of familial status, including families with children under the age of 18. This includes imposing different terms or conditions on families because they have children under the age of 18, making discriminatory statements, and enforcing overly restrictive rules and policies that discourage or prohibit families with children from enjoying their homes as in this complaint.

One level deeper: The complaint was brought by the State of California’s Civil Rights Department (CRD) and Project Sentinel. The CRD is the California state agency charged with enforcing California’s civil rights laws and a participant in FHEO's Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP). And Project Sentinel is a non-profit organization in the Bay Area that develops and promotes fairness and equity in housing for all persons. Project Sentinel receives grant funds under HUD’s Private Enforcement Initiative through the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP). Fair housing organizations that receive funding through FHIP carry out enforcement, education, and outreach activities to assist people who believe they have experienced housing discrimination and make them aware of their rights under the Fair Housing Act.

The bottom line: The management company and owners will pay $3 million to aggrieved families and implement corrective measures over five years. These measures include public interest relief to help prevent future discrimination, including revising property rules and approval procedures, distributing brochures to tenants about their rights, creating and maintaining policies to prevent discrimination and report discrimination, and annual training.