California landlords pay $7,500 for refusing to rent to family with children because of "safety concerns"

A California family settled claims of family status discrimination against a husband andwife team of Hayward, California landlords who refused to rent to them. The August 1997settlement of $7,500 ended a federal lawsuit filed by Heidi Garcia, her family, and theEden Council for Hope and Opportunity (ECHO) Housing.

In April 1996, HeidiGarcia saw an ad for a two-bedroom duplex in the Daily Review. She felt that itwould be an ideal place for herself and her husband, along with their two young sons.

Landlord said property would be unsafe for kids
Garcia telephoned Dan Alex, one of the owners of the property. Alex asked her who would beliving in the duplex with her. Garcia was honest about her family's composition and toldAlex about her two young sons. Alex told Garcia that he did not want to rent the duplex toa family with young children because the property was on a steep hill and he was afraidthe children would get hurt. Alex told Garcia that he did not feel the property would besafe for her two boys. Alex later told her that she probably would not like the placeanyway.

Garcia was upset about the situation. She had felt that the duplex would have beenperfect for her family. A friend told her that she should get in touch with a fair housingagency. Garcia called ECHO Housing and explained what had happened.

Angie Watson, ECHO Housing's Test Coordinator, spoke to Garcia and initiated aninvestigation. Watson sent a female tester to see the property. At the property, she metDan Alex. Alex asked the tester about her household composition. The tester explained thatshe, her husband, and her two young children would be living at the rental property.

Again, Dan Alex expressed his concerns about renting to families with young children.He explained that the house was on a slope and that there was a "big creek"running through the back yard. Alex told the tester that he simply felt it would be unsafefor her two children. The tester told Alex that her children would not be allowed outsideunsupervised and that she was not concerned that there was a hill and a creek at theproperty. In short, she told Alex that she did not think her children would be in danger.Alex continued to express his concerns.

As she was leaving, the tester asked Alex if she could return with her husband to viewthe property. Alex said that she could. The tester called Alex later the same day to seewhen she could set an appointment to view the property with her husband. Alex informed thetester that he had decided to rent the duplex to a family with no children. Alexapologized, but said that he felt better about renting to a family without childrenbecause of his safety concerns. Alex told the tester that she should call him back whenher children were "all grown."