Updated: Nov 27, 2019
I am a property manager for a large, multi-unit complex. About three months ago, a couple with two children, ages 3 and 7, moved into a first-floor unit in my complex. They seem to be a nice family, and I haven’t had any problems with them. The tenant that lives in the adjoining apartment, a retired 74-year-old tenant who has lived in her unit for 10 years, has made several complaints about this new family. She claims that they make too much noise, that they leave toys all over the yard, and that the parents do not properly discipline or supervise the children. In her last complaint, she even demanded that I evict the family. I have talked to the family, and they claim that they are not making excessive noise. They say that their children laugh and squeal when they play sometimes, but no more than kids normally do. Moreover, they told me that their elderly neighbor has confiscated some of their children’s toys and yelled at the children when they were playing in the front yard. In addition, I haven’t had any other tenants complain about the family making too much noise. I don’t know what to do – I value this long term tenant and don’t want to lose her. I also know, though, that the Fair Housing laws protect families with children from discrimination, and I don’t want to get in trouble by giving the family a notice.
What should I do?
It’s always challenging when two of your tenants don’t get along, but you are right to be concerned about whether there might be some familial status discrimination issues here. The Fair Housing laws protect families with children from discrimination in the terms and conditions of their housing, and this includes protection against harassment by other tenants or the management related to their children. The challenge for you as the manager is determining who is being unreasonable here: is the family making an unreasonable amount of noise, or is the elderly neighbor being unreasonably intolerant of the noises children naturally make? This might depend on the age of the children, the time of day the noises occur, the activities generating the noise, and whether other neighbors are complaining as well. Regardless of the noise, the neighbor’s actions here in confiscating the toys and yelling at the kids are the kind of harassing behavior that presents a real problem for you, and you have a responsibility as a housing provider with knowledge of the harassment to do something to stop it—otherwise, you may be liable for violating the Fair Housing laws. For more information about familial status discrimination, call Project Sentinel at 1-888-324-7468 or add us on social media.
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