Can Landlords Refuse to Rent to Families with Children?

If a landlord doesn’t want to rent to someone with children, does the law support that?

While children may be delightful and adorable to some people, certain landlords may find them messy, careless and noisy. Some landlords may not want to rent to families with young children because they believe the children will cause damage to the property, annoy other tenants or otherwise be a nuisance. However, it is illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent to someone with children.

Federal Laws on Renting to Families

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 made it illegal for landlords to discriminate against prospective tenants with children under the age of 18. Familial status is a protected class according to that law, along with national origin, race, religion, disability, sex or handicap. From the application process through terminating a lease, the Fair Housing Act outlaws any overt discrimination by landlords toward tenants with children.

There are limited exceptions to the law. One instance might happen when a family has so many children that occupancy would exceed the municipal fire code regulations for residents per room. Another exception is if the landlord has been granted permission for a senior residential complex specifically geared toward citizens aged 55 or older.

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Examples of Landlord Discrimination Against Children

Examples of Landlord Discrimination Against Children

Some landlords may not realize that imposing certain restrictions on families with children is, in fact, discrimination and therefore in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Even though these practices are illegal, they happen all the time with landlords and residents who are not familiar with the law.

Here are 5 scenarios of landlord discrimination against children that are illegal:

  1. A landlord refuses to rent a one-bedroom apartment to a single man and his 5-year-old son, because he insists that children must have their own bedroom.
  2. A landlord declines to rent an apartment to a small family, saying that he doesn’t want the damage that kids can cause in the rental, and that he prefers to rent to single peoples or childless couples.
  3. A landlord tells an applicant with children that he will only rent them a ground floor apartment, because children are too noisy when they live upstairs, or that he will only rent out a specific area in the complex to them, because he’s keeping all families with children living in a predetermined area.
  4. A landlord includes a clause in the lease agreement that prohibits children from playing outside because they will be too noisy, along with other rules controlling children’s noise.
  5. A landlord refuses to renew the lease agreement of a family with small children because neighbors have complained about children playing outside or being too noisy.

Know the Law

You can avoid legal trouble by becoming familiar with an applicant or tenant’s right to rent property when they have children. While you are allowed to select the best and most qualified tenant to rent to, you cannot make your decisions solely on whether or not the applicant or tenant has children.


  1. Some property management companies are taking this to the extreme. I’ve actually seen 40 people waiting to see an apartment. When the door opened, they literally run through the house with paper work in their hand, however the rental agent refuses to take it. They, then, go out and jump in their cars and race across town to the rental company. The game is that the first one who gets their paperwork in and actually qualifies gets the unit. If I were a property owner, I would not be at all happy with the system. You have people speeding and breaking the law to get the unit. What else are they doing? Drugs? etc.?

  2. “Hi sorry I didn’t get back to you, I have an elderly man who lives on the first floor who has been with me for a long time, he asked me if at all possible he could have no kids running around above him, I hope you can understand but he has been there for awhile and he’s a very good tenant of mine” is this an act of discrimination and is it illegal to do so?

  3. I always thought it was illegal for landlords to discriminate against families with children, but then I started the Washington Revised Codes. I’m not an attorney, but it sounds like RCW 59.18.200 Sec. 2a is saying a landlord can exclude children; “Whenever a landlord plans to change to a policy of excluding children, the landlord shall give a written notice to a tenant at least ninety days before termination of the tenancy to effectuate such change in policy. “ Have I interpreted this completely wrong? If so, what does it really mean?

  4. A local apartment building is advertised as an “adult apartment/community” and not a senior residential complex. Assuming they do not have permission for a senior residence and they refuse to allow any children regardless of age, family composition, etc. then they’re in direct violation of the law right? Question is… who would you report that too and what is the best way to prove that they’re doing it?

  5. I am trying to rent .However I constantly get turn down because I have a child . The landlord refuse to take any kids in there place .

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