Don't Let Your Landlord Tell You Where Your Kids Should Sleep

Children playing on bunkbed
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If you're looking to rent an apartment for you and your children, you may come across a landlord or two who will inform you that the building has restrictions on who can share a bedroom. Be aware that such bedroom-sharing restrictions are almost certainly in violation of the Fair Housing Act's (FHA) ban on familial status discrimination.

Landlords do have the right to enforce state or city occupancy requirements, which may limit an apartment to two tenants per bedroom or two tenants per bedroom plus one, for example.

But as long as your bedroom-sharing plans don't violate occupancy requirements, your landlord should have no right to tell you what room your kids may sleep in.

Common Illegal Bedroom-Sharing Restrictions With Children

Many landlords don't want children in their building for a variety of reasons. Children can damage apartments and raise the cost of the landlord's insurance. The landlord may also just simply dislike children. No matter what the reason, discriminating against a family because they have children is illegal. Landlords are not allowed to dictate where a child can sleep. Here are the two most common discriminatory bedroom-sharing restrictions you're likely to encounter when apartment hunting with children:

  1. No parents with children. Some landlords don't want adult tenants sharing a bedroom with their child. This is usually because these landlords believe that letting children occupy their own room is a better parenting strategy.
  1. No children with children. You may encounter a landlord who doesn't like the idea of children sharing a bedroom with each other. Or a landlord may allow bedroom sharing only if the children are of the same sex. Such landlords often cite morality or privacy concerns as the justification for their rule.

    Why Does It Matter?

    If a landlord could legally restrict children's sleeping arrangements, it would significantly affect many families' housing choices.

    Imagine that a single mother wants to rent a one-bedroom apartment for herself and her young child, but the landlord insists that the child must have her own bedroom. This would mean the mother must rent a two-bedroom apartment at a higher monthly rent. If many landlords had such a rule, it could take several months until the mother finds a landlord who would rent a one-bedroom apartment to her.

    Fortunately for apartment hunters, the FHA bars landlords from making rules that limit housing choices for families with children. As the parent or guardian of children, you get to make the parenting decisions, which includes choosing a sleeping arrangement that you feel works best for your family and your budget. The law requires landlords to stay out of that sort of decision-making.

    Hopefully, you'll only encounter landlords who are happy to let you decide where your kids sleep. But if you feel you've become the victim of illegal discrimination and wish to take action, you can consider pursuing a fair housing complaint.