“In 1988, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (“FHA”) was overhauled [by the] Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988…. Prior to the amendments, the Fair Housing Act prohibited various forms of housing-related discrimination based on ‘race, color, religion, or national origin.’ … In 1974, discrimination based on sex was added. … In 1988, prohibitions against housing discrimination based on ‘familial status’ …[was] added to the Act. Pub. L. No. 100-430, § 6, 102 Stat. 1619, 1620-21 (1988) [42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq]….” United States v. Southern Management Corp., 955 F.2d 914, 917 (4th Cir. 1992).
The FHA as amended now prohibits refusals to negotiate for the rental of a dwelling space on the basis of familial status, as well as statements indicating such discrimination. Morgan v. HUD et al, 985 F2d 1451, 1457 (10th Cir. 1993) stated that manufactured home “lots are considered dwellings under and within the scope of the [FHA].” (Id. at 1454) Under the FHA, “familial status” is defined as one or more individuals (who have not attained the age of 18 years) living with a parent or other designee having custody of the minor(s), i.e., families with children. 42 U.S. C. 3602(k)
Early on the courts begin analyzing familial status discrimination claims by first focusing on the language contained in the landlord’s rules and regulations. For example, the plaintiff buyers of a manufactured home in Morgan, cited above, contended in a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that the park owner had refused to allow the moibilehome sale because the buyers had a three year old son. The judge looked to the park rules, which were drafted by a tenants’ committee before discrimination based on familial status was prohibited, that expressly stated the park was “entirely an adult park” and “no children will be allowed in the park.” Even after the landlord agreed to retract this policy and the mobilehome was sold to a couple with children, after being notified by the buyer’s attorney the “adult only” policy was illegal, the administrative law judge found the landlord liable for discrimination under FHA, and the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed.
This analytical approach used by courts and regulators of scrutinizing a manufactured home community’s rules for evidence of discrimination against families with children has continued to evolve and is even more prominent today as demonstrated by a recent federal case arising out of California.