Marin, CA family fights discrimination; wins $70,000 settlement from property owner

In November 2002, the owner of a Marin, CA agreed to pay $70,000 to a family and Fair Housing of Marin (FHM), a private  nonprofit fair housing agency. The Consent Decree resolved claims that the landlord placed overly restrictive rules on children at his apartment complex. The names of the parties involved remain confidential, according to the Decree.

The family and FHM filed the federal lawsuit to challenge the rules at the complex that kept the playground closed, except during school hours, and prohibited children over the age of 10 from using the playground equipment. The landlord also  limited children’s use of the swimming pool and prohibited wheeled toys - like bicycles and tricycles - at the complex. Children were also restricted from being in the complex’s common areas.

Plaintiff family moved out of complex while case was pending to avoid anti-children environment

According to FHM, these rules greatly limited the ability of children to play outside. The rules caused a great number of families with children to move out of the complex or simply choose to live somewhere else, according to the complaint. This was illustrated, according to FHM, when the Plaintiff family involved in this case felt compelled to move out while the case was pending. FHM credited the family for seeing the case through to its resolution.

In addition to the $70,000 cash payment to the Plaintiffs, the owner of the property agreed to change the anti-children rules at the complex. The playground will now be open every day until 6:00 p.m. for children 12 and under. Additionally, the owner will provide tables and chairs in the playground area, so parents can supervise their children. The complex will also allow the use of wagons, tricycles, toy cars, and other wheeled toys on the property. The ownerand his employees will also be trained in the fair housing laws of California and the United States by FHM.

“Our children were afraid to go outside, because of these restrictions,” noted the Plaintiff family. “We gave the owners and managers every opportunity to understand what a hardship this was on families - including a petition from five families asking for changes and mediation to discuss a compromise. Their response was negative every time.”

Christopher Brancart and Liza Cristol-Deman of Brancart and Brancart represented the Plaintiffs in the case. Peter J. Bassing, a San Rafael attorney, represented the Defendants. Judge James Larson of the U.S. District Court for California’s Northern District presided over the case and approved the Consent Decree in November 2002.

Fair Housing of Marin completed an audit in 2002 that showed that families with children encounter extremely high levels of discrimination in housing in the Marin area.

Case No. 3:01-cv-04952 (N.D. California)
The Honorable James Larson, U.S. District Judge
Christopher Brancart & Liza Cristol-Deman,
attorneys for plaintiffs
Federal complaint filed: December 18, 2001
Consent Decree and Final Order: November 12, 2002