Dear Fair Housing Lady: Unsupervised Children

| April 28, 2014 | 6 Comments

Unsupervised ChildrenDear Fair Housing,

Just a quick one: at Lease Signing time, residents agree and sign to always supervise minor residents who are on property playing outside the home. When these rules are not followed, and children are unsupervised, what can I enforce? And relatives who live on property who are supposed to be responsible for other family members’ minors, who have been evicted, what recourse do I have there? And yes I have contacted Social Services and the local Police Dept., who have said if they’re not in any immediate danger, no need to worry.


Please, please, please (yes, Fair Housing Lady is begging) ditch the rule requiring supervision of children at your community.  Social services and the police are correct that if the children are not in immediate danger, there is no issue.  And as long as unsupervised children are not being unduly destructive or disruptive, there is no landlord/tenant issue either.  And note my qualifying word in the previous sentence – “unduly” – which means that children are children and they will play and run.   A landlord in California had rules similar to yours and actually sent a memo to residents stating: Children are not allowed to be outside alone, ever. If I find out or I see them outside you will receive 1 warning, then you will be asked to leave. This same landlord issued fines to the residents when their children were outside the apartment unsupervised, playing outside, stepping on the grass, and throwing the trash out. This led to a class action lawsuit costing the landlord a whopping total of $834,000 (big ouch!).  What you need to consider doing is having reasonable rules of acceptable conduct for your community, but those rules are for everyone (!) not just children.

Category: Familial Status

About Nadeen Green: Nadeen Green has been an attorney since 1979. She has taught Fair Housing law to the multi-family housing industry since the Fair Housing Amendments Act when into effect in 1989. She has been asked to speak numerous times for the National Apartment Association and the Multi-Housing World annual conventions. Her reader-friendly articles on Fair Housing appear regularly in industry publications. Nadeen is proud to be Senior Counsel with For Rent Media Solutions, which offers print and online advertising products for all communities, whether through For Rent Magazine®,, Para Rentar, Senior Outlook, After 55, or specialized publications for condominiums and student housing. .

Comments (6)

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  1. Maggie Corgan says:

    I told one of my managers to remove “Children must be supervised at all times” from her newsletter after your class yesterday. Now, she is asking if she can put something like “We would appreciate you supervising your children” versus the “must”. Is it the same thing if you ASK them to supervise their children rather than requiring them to?

    • Nadeen Green says:

      Hello, Maggie,
      I am glad to know that you were paying attention during yesterday’s class! And I appreciate your following up with a very good question. I do think that even asking people to supervise their children (as opposed to demanding it, as do many landlords, including the one we talked about in class – the one that paid $834K – ouch!) is inappropriate. Even if such a request might not be enough to create a fair housing liability in and of itself (and you do not want to be the test case to find that out), it could be added to other of your actions that might suggest familial status discrimination, or it might be used by a fair housing group as a reason to conduct a fair housing test at your community. Perhaps the better message would be “All residents and guests are expected to conduct themselves properly when out and about at the community”. The bottom line is that the behavior of folks at your community should be the issue – not whether they are adults are children. Quite frankly, there are children out there that do not need any supervision, and there are adults that do! (you know I am correct about that…).

  2. Laurie says:

    we have pools in our community. Would we be able to have a rule that persons under a certain age would require adult supervision when at the pool? We have pool attendants monitoring checmicals and city rules but are not lifeguards & don’t feel they should be babysitting young children whose parents send them down to play alone.

    • Nadeen Green says:

      What a timely question, as it is summertime and the living is easy…and this question does come up often. The general rule of thumb in the apartment industry is that “children 14 years and younger must be accompanied and supervised by an adult in the pool area or the pool itself”. The rationale is that the American Red Cross, which provides certification for swim/water safety skills, historically provided certification on a “junior life-saver” status once a young person reached 15. Thus the experts in swim/water safety believe that a person 15 or older can have not only significant swimming skills, but that they can also make some basic rescue responses. Of course if anyone (young or old) misbehaves at the pool (as spelled out in your rules for everybody!), that is a different story – pool privileges can be forfeited. So there you have it (non-legal advice, but sound educational input). Don’t get burned – not by the sun, and not by having a fair housing charge or complaint filed against you for imposing unreasonable rules for children.

  3. Robin Covey says:

    At what age can a resident be supervising other residents under 14 at the pool?

    Thank you

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