Whether you and your children have recently been evicted by your landlord through questionable means or you find yourself being hung up on by property managers as soon as you mention you have a toddler, you may be wondering whether you have any legal options. Single mothers who rent rather than own can find themselves on the receiving end of discrimination by property managers and landlords who don't want to deal with the perceived hassles of young children -- however, overt discrimination on the basis of parental status is a violation of federal housing laws. Read on to learn more about familial status discrimination and what you can do to combat this illegal behavior.
What protections do you have as a renter?
Under federal law, a landlord cannot refuse to rent to you if you're currently pregnant (or open about your plans to become pregnant), are a single mother, or have more than one child. You're also protected from discrimination if you have a disabled or special needs child or if the landlord claims you can't rent a specific unit because it has lead-based paint and could pose a risk to your children. Instead, the landlord is required to take lead-abatement measures (and pay for these out of pocket) before putting the apartment or home up for rent. Discrimination on just about any basis involving your children or family plans falls under the umbrella of familial status discrimination.
In order to prove housing discrimination, you'll need either overt statements or actions from the landlord or a pattern of behavior showing that the discrimination you experienced was on a protected basis and not due to another factor (like your credit score or rental history). Actions like being hung up on or having your calls go unreturned once the landlord discovered you have children can often fit the bill, as can sworn statements from other single mothers who have been turned down despite having better credit scores and rental histories than approved renters without children.
What should you do if you've suffered familial status discrimination?
Each state has its own housing enforcement authority, as does the federal government -- and even if you decide to seek legal assistance through a private attorney, your first step should be to file an official complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) online. This complaint will be investigated and action may be taken to secure you housing or even fine the offender.
If you're dissatisfied with the resolution of your complaint through HUD or your state housing authority, you may want to consult an attorney to determine whether filing a lawsuit or proposing arbitration could be an acceptable solution. Contact a firm like The Law Offices of Douglas F. Fagan to learn more.Share
14 October 2016
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