Rental Discrimination: Age

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While federal law doesn’t protect against discrimination against age, some state laws prohibit landlords from doing so (e.g., New York City). Additionally, some jurisdictions forbid discrimination based on appearance. Landlords violate such state laws if applicants are suddenly denied when they appear to sign the lease. For example, it may be illegal to deny a rental because a tenant looks old or has a certain hairstyle/piercing.

Prohibited Discrimination

Discrimination under the Fair Housing Act covers more than just the process of trying to sign a lease. Based on the presence of children (including pregnancy), a landlord cannot: refuse to rent housing; refuse to negotiate for housing; make housing unavailable; otherwise deny a dwelling; set different terms, conditions, or privileges for rental of a dwelling; provide different housing services or facilities; falsely deny that housing is available for rental; for profit, persuade homeowners to rent dwellings by suggesting that tenants of a particular protected class have moved, or are about to move into the neighborhood; or deny any tenant access to any organization, facility, or service related to the rental of dwellings, or discriminate against any tenant in the terms or conditions of such access. For example, a landlord may not restrict tenants with children to a single portion of a complex.

Splitting Tenants by Age

Often, young tenants and older tenants have different tolerances for noise and have other differing expectations of a rental property. Under federal law, landlords are free to divide younger and elder tenants into different sections of a building, so long as it doesn’t make any distinctions between tenants with children and tenants without. Some state and local laws may have additional restrictions and may prohibit such divisions.

Rights of Children

Discriminating against children is often an overlooked aspect of the Fair Housing Act. In addition to asking about children, landlords must also treat apartments with children equally as those without children. For example, prohibiting children from skateboarding or posting a “No children allowed” sign in front of a building laundry room is forbidden. A useful exercise is to mentally replace the word “children” with a specific race, and if the result seems racist or offensive, then a similar restriction against children is likely prohibited by the Fair Housing Act. For example, a “No Asians allowed” would be racist so therefore “No children allowed” will likely be prohibited by the Fair Housing Act.


The Fair Housing Act rental discrimination rules do not apply to owner-occupied buildings with less than five units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members. Some senior housing facilities or communities can lawfully refuse to rent dwellings to families with minor children.

By |February 21st, 2018|USA|

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