Family status is protected under the fair housing laws, so you cannot simply deny an applicant because you find out that they have children. It's true, unruly and unsupervised children can get into a surprising bit of mischief, but instead of hedging close to breaking or bending the discrimination laws, you may want to take a look at your property rules and policies across the board. You shouldn't specify rules for the property specifically to children if you can help it. In many cases a broad rule or policy may help take care of the problem so that it doesn't appear as if you're trying to limit the children's enjoyment of the property.
Knowing how to handle children that may be causing problems on a property can be difficult, especially if you don't handle the problem from the beginning. If you're new to managing the property or just a new landlord (and the tenants were inherited from the previous landlord), you may be limited in what you could do. As mentioned before, broad rules help to keep everyone safe and happy as well. Just because children are causing the trouble doesn't mean that the same rules don't apply to the adults as well. If the problem is leaving toys in the walkway or on public stairs, think about making a property-wide rule that says no personal property may be left out in public areas. If children are running amok at all hours and disrupting other tenants, you may want to add a noise policy to the lease.
Be sure that the rules are justified by a business need. Sometimes a risk warning or an age cut off might be more appropriate than a strict rule. This might be the case when it comes to pools or play areas. Common sense should dictate that allowing a small child to swim along is dangerous, but it's best to keep yourself covered so that you are not liable should a parent not act responsibly for the child.
If there's just one child causing trouble, you may want to simply speak to that child's family and attempt to resolve it in that manner, rather than creating rules that restrict everyone. In the end, the key will be balancing out each tenant's rights to enjoy their home that they are renting from you.
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