Children in Common Areas – Fair Housing Settlement Shows Importance of Sound Policy

On July 23, 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) approved a Conciliation Agreement between Meadow Ridge IV, LLC and ConAm Management Corp., the owner and manager of Meadow Ridge Apartments in Las Vegas, NV, and a resident, settling claims that the owner and manager discriminated against families with children by allegedly denying unsupervised children access to the property’s common areas.

The case came to HUD’s attention when a mother residing at Meadow Ridge Apartments filed a complaint alleging that the property manager made her son and other children leave a recreational area of the complex after observing the children playing without the supervision of their parents. The woman’s complaint further alleged that the owner and manager maintained an unwritten policy that children could not use common spaces without adult supervision. The owner and manager deny that they discriminated against the woman but agreed to settle the complaint.

Under the terms of the agreement, the owner and manager will pay $5,000 to the mother and allow her, if she chooses, to terminate her lease after a 30-day written notice without penalty. They further agreed to (1) give the resident a neutral landlord reference; (2) ensure that all leasing and management staff who work with tenants at the property will attend a live fair housing training session; and (3) write a letter to all residents at the property stating that their policy is that children do not need to be supervised in the common areas.

This agreement reiterates the importance of having sound community policies relative to use of common areas. It also makes clear the risk of “unwritten policies,” which are not policies at all, but merely an arbitrary desire of the owner or management that may be imposed in a discriminatory way. If a policy is not in writing, it is not a policy! As for rules relating to children, safety rules are fine, but behavior rules should be avoided. Any “behavior” rules should be applied to all residents – not just children.