Wisconsin Landlords Accused of Discriminating Against Family with Five Children

HUD recently charged the owners of a three-bedroom duplex in Wisconsin with discrimination for refusing to rent to a family because they have children. 

The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to deny or limit housing because a family has children under the age of 18 and to make statements that discriminate against families with children.

The case came to HUD’s attention when a couple filed a complaint claiming that their rental application was denied because they have five children. Allegedly, the rental unit was large enough for the family under the local code, and three of the children would have lived there only part time. HUD’s charge alleged that when the couple inquired about the status of their rental application, they were told that one of the property owners wasn’t comfortable with having five children living in the unit. The owners also allegedly told the couple they didn’t feel that the house would be cleaned properly and were concerned things would get damaged.

HUD's charge will be heard by a U.S. Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court.

“Denying rental opportunities to families simply because they have children not only robs them of the chance to obtain the housing they need, but it also violates the law,” Anna María Farías, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in statement. “HUD will continue working to ensure that property owners and housing providers meet their obligation to treat all applicants the same.”

“Assuming that families with children make bad tenants is an unlawful stereotype,” said Paul Compton, HUD’s General Counsel. “When a housing provider refuses to rent to a family because the family has children, the refusal violates the Fair Housing Act.”

Want to learn more about setting and enforcing occupancy standards? See the Coach’s October lesson, “Evaluate Your Occupancy Standards to Prevent Discrimination Claims,” available for download to our subscribers here.

And in a recent one-hour webinar, attorney Theresa L. Kitay discussed how to update your occupancy policy in light of recent court rulings and with the aim of heading off potential fair housing trouble. For more information on the webinar, click here.