In 1988 the Fair Housing Act was amended to include familial status as a protected class. Familial status covers anyone who has legal custody of children under age 18. This includes biological parents, stepparents, foster parents, adopted parents, grandparents, or other relatives or guardians. It applies to anyone expecting children, such as those who are pregnant or individuals in the process of adopting a child. Examples of discrimination based on familial status include:
- Advertisements that discourage families with children, such as “Single Occupancy,” or “Adults Only”
- Limiting families to particular areas or units, such as a ground floor unit.
- Unreasonable occupancy standards, such as separate rooms for children, or separate rooms for parent and child. 50 square feet per person is the minimum requirement for occupancy in Virginia.
- Charging additional fees per child, or a higher security deposits for teenagers.
- Requiring that children always be at school or under adult supervision when the parent/guardian is at work.
- Asking the parent how they intend to pay rent and provide for their children.
The only exception to the familial status protection applies to communities for the elderly. Senior communities may legally turn away families with children. However, the property has to be for the explicit purpose of serving the elderly and a minimum of 80% of the units must be occupied by persons 55 of age and older.