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New prospective landlord has asked illegal questions. What now?

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araxoolie

New member
I've just applied for an apartment and I've been asked the relationship between my co-applicants and our ages. I know these are discriminatory questions and that many landlords are not aware of that fact. The questions were over email and I haven't answered yet.
So the kicker is, we are two sets of married lesbians. At this point we COULD say "we're married and now you've given us ample ground for a discimination suit if you deny us; your move, buddy." But that sets up an adversarial relationship I'd rather not start off with. On the other hand, not answering at all, or answering in vague terms, raises the risk of being denied, and we've been denied at a lot of apartments already.
What would be the smart thing to do here?
 


Zigner

Senior Member, Non-Attorney
You could answer with something along the lines of "Those questions are a bit personal and I'd prefer not to answer them. We are all over the age of 18 and we are all happy to be listed as tenants."
 

araxoolie

New member
Why have you been denied at many places?
The number of people, the fact that I am currently the sole income (though I make more than enough to afford the apartments we are looking at), and once because our group includes several disabled people (now THAT's discrimination!).
 

xylene

Senior Member
Having other adult applicants to whom you are not related is going to be complex.

I'm just not seeing how it is discrimination. Adults wanting to live together is not a protected class, even though you and your wife are married and lesbians, that isn't what the landlord has a problem with. It's applicants with no income who are not related to you.
 

adjusterjack

Senior Member
4 people applying for one apartment and only one is employed. That's a problem. Perhaps you are overly sensitive to questions that may have more to do with financial qualifications than sexual orientation.

What would be the smart thing to do here?
Answer the questions truthfully and see how it goes.
 

not2cleverRed

Obvious Observer
I've just applied for an apartment and I've been asked the relationship between my co-applicants and our ages. I know these are discriminatory questions and that many landlords are not aware of that fact. The questions were over email and I haven't answered yet.
So the kicker is, we are two sets of married lesbians. At this point we COULD say "we're married and now you've given us ample ground for a discimination suit if you deny us; your move, buddy." But that sets up an adversarial relationship I'd rather not start off with. On the other hand, not answering at all, or answering in vague terms, raises the risk of being denied, and we've been denied at a lot of apartments already.
What would be the smart thing to do here?
The problem is, that would be an assumption on your part. For all you know, this particular landlord might prefer married lesbian tenants, as being more "stable", and might view your spouse's lack of income as less of a liability than a random "friend" as a roommate - you two have made a commitment to support each other, after all.

Furthermore, if you have been "denied at a lot of apartments lately", places where your marital status was never mentioned, then whatever the reason for those denials could be a negative factor in your application at this place.

That said, I'm with Zig, but would not even be vague: I would simply reply with an answer to legally allowable questions and ignore the others.

In order to prove discrimination, you have to show that there a denial was because of discrimination, and that, all other things being equal, the only reason for the denial could be discrimination.

Having other adult applicants to whom you are not related is going to be complex.

I'm just not seeing how it is discrimination. Adults wanting to live together is not a protected class, even though you and your wife are married and lesbians, that isn't what the landlord has a problem with. It's applicants with no income who are not related to you.
This is MA. Marital status is a question worth avoiding because it is against the law to discriminate based on marital status or sexual orientation (among other things). And "getting to know you" small talk questions don't belong in a rental application.

Your ability to pay rent (income) and your rental history (references, have you ever been evicted) are legally allowable.
 

xylene

Senior Member
Marital status is a question worth avoiding because it is against the law to discriminate based on marital status or sexual orientation
Not wanting at least 2 other unrelated adult applicants (per the op) without income to be tenant residents is neither discrimination by marital status nor sexual orientation.
 

Just Blue

Senior Member
Now that we've got all this cleared up, I'd like to point out one thing. Asking the questions is not illegal...adverse actions based on the answers to the questions is the problem.
I agree. But in 35 years of renting I was not once asked those questions. Even my LL from hell in Marblehead didn't ask those questions.
 

DeenaCA

Member
It's not clear whether this situation has anything to do with sexual orientation or other protected characteristics (such as disability). A fair housing organization would be in a position to check, possibly through a few "testing" phone calls.

Just FYI, discrimination based on sexual orientation is (sadly) not banned under the federal Fair Housing Act, but is banned under state law in MA and in many other states.

I recommend that you contact fair housing experts in your state: Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
 

not2cleverRed

Obvious Observer
Now that we've got all this cleared up, I'd like to point out one thing. Asking the questions is not illegal...adverse actions based on the answers to the questions is the problem.
After all, it's not discrimination unless someone actually discriminates.

But since the landlord is violating the law if s/he considers marital status or sexual orientation, it's just best not to ask about it.
 

Zigner

Senior Member, Non-Attorney
After all, it's not discrimination unless someone actually discriminates.

But since the landlord is violating the law if s/he considers marital status or sexual orientation, it's just best not to ask about it.
No argument there ;)
 
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