Listen to our podcast on housing protections for families with children! We have text and audio versions in English, Arabic, French, and Somali!
You can listen to the audio (above) or read the text of the podcast below.
The Fair Housing Act is a national law that prohibits discrimination against people who belong to protected classes, when they apply to rent or buy housing. The protected classes under the Fair Housing Act are race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and familial status, or having children under the age of 18. Examples of housing discrimination include refusing to rent to a person because they belong to a protected class or advertising preferences that indicate that people who belong to protected classes should not apply for housing. There are many other examples, but basically it is discrimination under the FHA to treat people differently in housing, just because of their protected status.
Many landlords or housing providers don't know their responsibilities when it comes to renting to families with children or don't even know that families with children enjoy a protected status under housing discrimination laws and that they can't make dwellings unavailable or deny dwellings just because families have children. Children may live with a biological parent, stepparent, foster parent, grandparent, or any other adult who has legal custody of them. It makes no difference if the adult members of the family are married, divorced, single, widowed, or separated. Children must be under 18 years old, but they don't have to be part of a household yet. Families that are pregnant or in the process of adopting a child are also protected.
Fair Housing laws also prevent housing providers from imposing any special requirements or conditions on tenants with custody of children. For example, landlords may not locate families with children in any single portion of a complex, place unreasonable restrictions on the total number of persons who may reside in a dwelling, limit access to recreational services provided to other tenants, or bar them from dwellings based on safety concerns.
Some dwellings are exempt from Fair Housing laws, though. One exemption includes housing that have been designated as Housing for Older Persons. Another is called the "Mrs. Murphy exemption". "Mrs. Murphy" is a hypothetical elderly widow who converted part of her home into apartments to supplement her limited income. The exemption says that if a dwelling has four or fewer rental units and the owner lives in one of the units, it is exempt from the FHA. In this scenario, Mrs. Murphy can be selective. Maine's Fair Housing laws also exempts two unit housing when the owner resides on one of the units, or renting a house with four bedrooms when the owner resides in one of the rooms.
If you think your landlord has illegally discriminated against you in housing on the basis of familial status contact Pine Tree Legal to find out if we can help. For contact information go to www.ptla.org.
Or you can contact one of these offices directly:
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
10 Causeway Street, Room 321
Boston, MA 02222-1092 ·
617-994-8300 or 1-800-827-5005
Maine Human Rights Commission
51State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333-0051
207-624-6290 TIY: 1-888-577-6690
This podcast was funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under a Fair
Housing Initiatives Grant. The information provided does not necessarily reflect the opinion of HUD.
Posted March 2018