May 22, 2019
An Arizona new mom was mystified when she brought her baby home from the hospital and received an unwelcome demand. Her landlord told her that the new baby was an addition to her and her partner's household, meaning a $75 increase in rent per month. So the shocked mom reached out for advice on Reddit.
“Today we paid rent and our landlord noticed our little one/asked how old she was and briefly mentioned the extra charge for our baby,” the mom wrote. “We rent a two-bedroom house and pay all of the utilities, so we were confused what she was talking about.”
The Reddit thread made a lot of people wonder: Can a landlord charge you more in rent if you have a baby? The answer is a simple no.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), “You cannot be charged more rent or related fees because you have a child.”
Because of the Federal Fair Housing Act, it’s housing discrimination for a landlord to up your rent because of your growing family. And it’s not just parents with biological children who are safe from a rent hike: the rules also apply to those adopting or fostering kids.
But what’s a confused tenant to do if a landlord pulls a stunt like the one in the Reddit story? “It's not a bad idea to talk to the landlord on their own first because maybe they will just not impose the surcharge,” says Scott Chang, director of litigation at the Housing Rights Center in Los Angeles. “But if the landlord isn't budging, they should go to a fair housing organization or they could file a complaint.”
You have a couple options of where to report the landlord, according to Jonathon Fox, director of the Tenants Rights Unit at the New York Legal Assistance Group.
"You can go to local enforcement agencies or you can go to HUD," he tells Parents.com. “So if you're in New York City, I'd go to the New York City Commission on Human Rights, which is the city agency that enforces the city's anti-discrimination laws.”
RELATED: How to Spot Pregnancy Discrimination
If the idea of challenging your landlord alone intimidates you, there are fair housing organizations across the country that can help you challenge the rule or file a complaint to the authorities.
Fox also points out, “If there's already an existing lease, you can't just change the rent in the middle of the lease. It just doesn't work like that.” So if a landlord approaches you mid-lease and talks about upping prices, that’s a sign something weird is going on and it's a good time to consult a fair housing group.
Bottom line, if a landlord is trying to charge you more “based on children, then it's totally not allowed,” says Chang. “The landlord will either back down or HUD or someone else will tell them to back down.”